Minnesota takes improvements east

Minnesota and Vermont split two games last season.

Minnesota forwards Christian Isackson, left, and Tom Serratore, center, make a play for a goal against Wisconsin goalie Joel Rumpel on Nov. 17, 2012 at Mariucci Arena.

Emily Dunker

Minnesota forwards Christian Isackson, left, and Tom Serratore, center, make a play for a goal against Wisconsin goalie Joel Rumpel on Nov. 17, 2012 at Mariucci Arena.

Drew Claussen

The Gophers men’s hockey program has never played at Vermont‘s home rink. That will change this weekend.

Minnesota will make the nearly 1,000-mile pilgrimage to Burlington, Vt., to skate with the Catamounts in a two-game series.

Minnesota will look to improve its road record — the Gophers are undefeated at home but only 2-2-1 on the road.

Vermont is 2-5-2 this season and has played all of its games in the Hockey East Conference.

The Gophers hosted Vermont last season at Mariucci Arena. Minnesota won the first game, and Vermont used a four-goal second period to win the second tilt 5-4.

It was the Gophers’ only loss in their first 11 games.

This season, Minnesota begins its series with Vermont with a 7-2-2 record. The Gophers have a 4-2-2 record in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.

But they’ve left a lot of room for improvement.

The Gophers have shown slight improvement in their last two weekends, taking three out of four points from both Alaska-Anchorage and Wisconsin.

A bright spot against the Badgers last weekend was the emergence of second-tier scoring. Tom Serratore scored the game-winning goal in Saturday’s 3-1 victory over Wisconsin.

“[Serratore] had one goal on the year, and that’s a big goal,” head coach Don Lucia said Saturday about the game-winner. “We need someone that doesn’t score all the time to score a goal.”

After goalie Kent Patterson graduated from the program last season, the Gophers’ quality of play in net came into question.

But through 11 games, freshman goalie Adam Wilcox has made Patterson’s departure seem less significant.

“He’s been terrific all season long,” Lucia said Saturday. “He just stands his ground and throws that glove up there and snatches it away. … He gives us a chance every night.”

Last season, the Gophers used Patterson to ease in a young defensive corps. This season, that experienced defensive corps has helped ease the transition for Wilcox.