Minnesota seniors looking for win No. 102

The Gophers host UMD for a two-game series at Mariucci this weekend.

Brian Deutsch

One hundred. That’s the number of career wins the senior class of the Minnesota men’s hockey team has going into their final regular season series.

MEN’S HOCKEY PREVIEW

WHERE: Mariucci Arena
WHEN: 7:07 p.m., tonight and Saturday
TV: Fox Sports Net North (tape Fri. and live Sat.)
RADIO: WCCO 830 AM
All-time record: Minnesota leads 125-66-12

Earlier this year: Nine different Gophers tallied one point each as Minnesota picked up three WCHA points against the Bulldogs. The Gophers played to a 1-1 overtime tie Friday night before edging Minnesota-Duluth 2-1 the following night. Freshman goalie Alex Kangas earned the WCHA Rookie of the Week award for his performance.

One hundred and two, however, is a better sounding number to the seniors than an even Benjamin.

Two more wins could, at least, prolong the inevitable; sooner or later, the six seniors will slip on their Maroon and Gold jerseys for the final time at home.

But at this point, there is only so much the group of six seniors can do to earn another series at home. The Gophers are still in the second division, meaning they will likely be on the road for the first round of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs.

“We just want to go out there, play our hardest and make it a memorable weekend no matter if it’s our last weekend (here) or just senior weekend,” senior forward Tom Pohl said. “We just have to do the things that make us successful as a team and hopefully win some hockey games.”

Pohl and the seniors never missed the NCAA tournament in their first three years as Gophers, but senior forward Ben Gordon knows this year’s crew isn’t the same as in past seasons.

minnesota

(14-13-9 overall, 8-11-7 WCHA) Ranking: 14

Minnesota Stat
With nine ties this season, the Gophers are just one draw away from tying both school and national records. While one conference point is earned for each tie, the lack of wins against WCHA foes will hurt Minnesota in the event they end up tied in the standings.

PLAYERS TO WATCH
Senior defenseman Derek Peltier: Last weekend at Alaska-Anchorage, Peltier doubled his season total for goals with his third and fourth goals of the year. This weekend, he will conclude his final regular season as a Gophers blue-liner. In four years with the team, Peltier has missed one game ñ Minnesota’s second game of his freshman season
Senior forward Mike Howe: Howe picked up a goal and an assists in last Saturday’s 4-1 win over the Seawolves ñ breaking up a 12-game goalless slump for the senior. Howe already has a career high 15 points (five goals, 10 assists) on the season.

“The first three years we were here we had one of the best teams in the country, hands down. We weren’t even really tested until the end of the year,” Gordon said. “This year has been a different story. It’s the up-and-down rollercoaster type season.”

Gordon added that the adversity this year’s squad has played through may actually help the team as the WCHA playoffs begins in two weeks. But for now, the team is simply focusing on the Bulldogs this weekend and enjoying what could be the seniors’ final series on their home ice.

“It’s exciting because you’re moving on to other things, but it’s also tremendously sad because you’re leaving your friends,” Gordon said. “It’s going to be our last games at Mariucci. It’s going to be a sad deal because it’s been a huge part of our lives.”

But the Bulldogs could play the spoilers for Minnesota this weekend by denying the Gophers a shot at home ice and actually jumping Minnesota in the conference standings – they trail by only two points.

Minnesota-Duluth

(12-14-6 overall, 8-13-5 WCHA) Ranking: Not ranked

Minnesota-Duluth Stat
Skidding into Mariucci Arena on a four-game losing streak, the Bulldogs have only scored one goal in the past two series. However those games were played against No. 1 North Dakota and No. 5 Colorado College ñ the top two teams in the WCHA.

PLAYERS TO WATCH
Junior forward MacGregor Sharp: Sharp has the Bulldogs only goal in the last two weekends. The center leads the team in points (17), assists (10) and is tied for the goals lead (7).
Junior defenseman Josh Meyers: 13 might be a lucky number for Meyers. The Los Angeles Kings draft pick leads the Bulldogs with a plus/minus of +13 on the season and has 13 points on the year. He also has the most penalties (22) and penalty minutes (66) on the Minnesota-Duluth roster.

“(The University of Minnesota-Duluth) is in a very similar situation to what we are – they’re a similar team,” Gophers coach Don Lucia said. “I’m sure they’re going to some competitive, low-scoring games very similar to what they were up in Duluth in early January.”

Lucia added that, although Colorado College, North Dakota and Denver have been far and above the best teams in the WCHA this year, the rest of the competition is incredibly tight.

“I don’t think there is that much difference between any of the teams,” Lucia said. “It’s more important how we’re playing than who we’re playing.”