Men’s hockey pregame: Minnesota vs. Denver

Max Sanders

After a one-point weekend against now No. 2 North Dakota in Grand Forks, the Gophers will look to earn their first win of the young season against No. 4 Denver. This series marks the second consecutive week the Gophers are facing a top-five ranked opponent. Last year Minnesota faced just one top-five ranked opponent all season, when they played then No. 5 New Hampshire in a Nov. series at Mariucci.

This marks the first time in nearly two years Denver has traveled to Mariucci to face the Gophers. The Pioneers last played at Minnesota on Nov. 4, 2007.

Head coach Don Lucia made several key changes after the 4-0 shutout loss to North Dakota, and again adjusted the lineup for tonight’s opener.

Minnesota First Line:

Left Wing-Jordan Schroeder

Center-Mike Carman

Right Wing-Jay Barriball

It’s been a busy week for the Schroeder-Barriball line. After opening the year on the first line at center and wing respectively, Schroeder and Barriball were sent down to the third line for the series finale against North Dakota. Schroeder and Barriball have moved back up to the first line, but Schroeder is at left wing, not center. A possible reason for this change might be face-offs. The Gophers were dominated 42-26 in face-offs in the season opener, so Lucia must have decided that while he needs his best player on the front line, he is better off at the left wing position where he won’t have to deal with face-offs.

On the second line for the Gophers is Hoeffel-White-Flynn. The third line is Lucia-Sacchetti-Matson and the final line is Miller-Budish-Birkholz.

 

Minnesota Defense:

Left-Nick Leddy

Right-David Fischer

No surprises here. Fischer and Leddy had a very productive week for the Gophers, ending up at +1 for the weekend. Fischer will need to continue to be a physical force and spark the offense against a very potent Denver squad.

Sophomore Sam Lofquist is not in the starting lineup, and is listed as one of five extra players.

Goalie: Alex Kangas

As expected, Kangas gets the nod tonight. Lucia said during media day Wednesday that he is likely to use the same formula at the goalie position as last weekend, when he started Kangas the first game and Patterson the second. Both goalies were arguably the strongest players on the ice in the series for the Gophers, saving 70 out of a possible 77 shots for a .909 save percentage.

The Denver Pioneers enter Western Collegiate Hockey Association play with a 2-2-0 record. The preseason favorites have struggled out of the gate, needing a three-goal rally against Vermont to take their opening game. After losing the second game to Vermont, the Pioneers split its next series against Ohio State.

Denver head coach George Gwozdecky enters this series two wins away from 500 career victories.

Denver First Line:

Left Wing-Rhett Rakshani

Center-Tyler Ruegsegger

Right-Anthony Maiani

Again, no surprises here. Rakhsani is the Pioneers’ captain, and Ruegsegger is an assistant captain, and they are the two anchors of the team. Ruegsegger has four points on the season by way of two goals and two assists.

Defense

Left-Patrick Wiercioch

Right-William Wrenn

Goalie

March Cheverie

Much like Minnesota, Denver’s goalie situation is a platoon. Cheverie has split games with freshman Adam Murray, though Cheverie has seen more success early on. The junior is 2-0-0 on the year with a goals against average of an even 2.00. Murray is winless on the year at 0-2-0, with a goals against average of 4.72.

Minnesota vs. Denver is one of five head-to-head series in the WCHA conference this weekend.

Other conference match-ups:

North Dakota at Alaska Anchorage

Minnesota Duluth at St. Cloud State

Michigan Tech at Colorado College

Wisconsin at Minnesota State

 

Conference Standings:

1) Minnesota Duluth-4 pts.

2) Colorado College-3 pts.

     North Dakota-3 pts.

4) Minnesota-1 pt.

     Wisconsin-1 pt.

6) Alaska Anchorage-0 pts.

     Denver-O pts.

     Michigan Tech.-0 pts.

     St. Cloud State-0 pts.

     Minnesota State-0 pts.