Men’s hockey pre-game report: Gophers vs. Minnesota State-Mankato

Max Sanders

Minnesota returns to conference play in a crucial two-game series against in-state rivals Minnesota State-Mankato.

The Gophers are coming off a split at the College Hockey Showcase, where they were embarrased in an opening night 6-0 loss before salvaging the weekend with a 2-1 win over then No. 8 Michigan State.

Minnesota closes out the first half of the regular season with series against the Mavericks and Michigan Tech. Don Lucia’s squad is No. 9 in the conference with seven points, only ahead of perennial cellar-dwellers Michigan Tech for last place.

Gophers Offensive First Line:

Left Wing-Mike Hoeffel

Center-Jordan Schroeder

Right Wing-Nico Sacchetti

Notes: Lucia has stuck with this first line since the Barriball injury, and the Schroeder-led line continues to be Minnesota’s strongest. Hoeffel leads the team with six goals, but Schroeder has been the best offensive threat of late, scoring goals in seven of the Gopehrs past 10 games.

Defensive First Line:

Left-Nick Leddy

Right-David Fischer

Notes: Highly-touted freshman Nick Leddy makes his long-anticipated, much-needed return to the defensive unit. While Brian Schack helped fill in admirably, he clearly was a drop in talent from the Minnesota Wild first-round pick, who will hope to solidify a unit allowing three goals a game.

Goalie:

Kent Patterson

Surprisingly, the Gophers most unstable position is between the pipes. Alex Kangas has simply not gotten the job done so far, and when Patterson has started the sophomore has performed extremely well, earning his first career win behind a 37-save effort last Saturday against the Spartans.

 

Mavericks Offensive First Line:

Left Wing-Geoff Irwin

Center-Zach Harrison

Right Wing-Tyler Thompson

Notes:

The first-line is anchored by senior Geoff Irwin. The captain has eight points coming by way of four goals and four assists.

Mavericks Defensive First Line:

Left-Ben Youds

Right-Tyler Elbrecht

Goalie-Austin Lee

 

Final Thoughts: Losses early in the year to the likes of North Dakota and Denver were expected. However, split series against the likes of Wisconsin, Bemidji State and Minnesota-Duluth leaves the Gophers in desperate need of not just one win weekends, but sweeps in its final two Western Collegiate Hockey Association series of the first half of the regular season to stay in contention. While currently in seventh place in WCHA standings, the Gophers sit just four points back of fourth place, and six back of third. If they hope to begin the climb back to respectability, it has to start tonight.