Men’s hockey pre-game report: Gophers vs. (4) North Dakota

Max Sanders

After a hard fought opener ended in a 3-3 tie Friday, the Minnesota men’s hockey team will try once again to climb to .500 in conference play as they host the University of North Dakota in the second game of a weekend series at Mariucci arena.

Friday Re-cap: Last night’s game saw three lead changes, with the University of North Dakota getting on the board first courtesy of a goal by freshman phenom Danny Kristo in the first period. In the second period, the Gophers stormed back, scoring an equalizer by Jordan Schroeder and then taking the lead on a goal by Patrick White. The Sioux fought back, when with just over six minutes remaining in the second period Kristo tallied his second goal of the night. After taking the lead on a goal by Brad Malone, Minnesota avoided what could have been a devestating loss when newcomer Jacob Cepis knotted the game at three on a goal with just over two minutes remaining in the third period. In overtime, Minnesota tallied more penalties (one), then shots (0). Nick Leddy was sent to the box with just over a minute remaining, leading the Gophers to play conservative hockey, resulting in a tie and point for both squads.

Key Point for tonight’s game: Both team’s saw no major changes to their lineups, not unexpected considering the solid effort put forth by both teams last night. For a rivarly as frequent (it’s the most played matchup in division one hockey), there were very few penalties on either end (only eight combined). However, Minnesota must learn to keep their composure, as the few penalties they committed were costly, none more so than the Nick Leddy overtime penalty, which forced the Gophers to play conservative instead of an aggressive attack for the remainder of overtime. If Minnesota is to gain a much needed two points tonight, they must keep their emotions in check, and force the Sioux to play a slower, more deliberate style of hockey, similar to last night’s game.

Gophers Offensive First Line:

Left Wing-Jacob Cepis

Center-Jordan Schroeder

Right Wing-Zach Budish

Notes: Making a splash, in five games Jacob Cepis already has three goals and one assist for four points. The junior transfer has made noise in other areas as well, involved in four penalties from last night’s games. Cepis acknowledged he has to do a better job keeping his emotions in check, as he was quick to challenge North Dakota defenseman Ben Blood, who at 6 foot 4, 220 pounds holds a slight edge physically over the 5 foot 8, 175 pound Cepis.

Gophers Defensive First Line:

Left-Nick Leddy

Right-David Fischer

Goalie-Alex Kangas

Notes: Kangas has played extremely well as of late, but needs to crack down on allowing the rather simple shots to get past. The junior has a goals against average of .921, six points better then his counterpart tonight, Sioux goalie Brad Eidsness.

North Dakota Offensive First Line:

Left Wing-Jason Gregoire

Center-Chris VandeVelde

Right Wing-Matt Frattin

North Dakota Defensive First Line:

Left-Andrew MacWilliam

Right-Ben Blood

Goalie-Brad Eidsness

Tonight’s magic number: 2. Just like it was last night, 2 is the scoring total the Gophers need to hold the Sioux to tonight if they want a strong chance at winning. Including last night’s game, Minnesota is 11-0-0 when holding opponents to two goals or fewer, while they are 0-10-2 when opponents score three or more goals.

Western Collegiate Hockey Association Standings:

1) Denver-23 points

    Minnesota Duluth-23 points

3) Wisconsin-20 points

    St. Cloud State-20 points

5) Colorado College-19 points

    North Dakota-19 points

7) Minnesota-14 points

8) Alaska Anchorage-11 points

    Minnesota State-11 points

10) Michigan Tech-4 points