Home-at-home series to decide Gophers’ fate

by Josh Linehan

A home-at-home series will decide where the Minnesota men’s hockey team spends next weekend — at home or on the road.
To guarantee home ice for the first round of the WCHA playoffs, the Gophers must sweep in-state rival St. Cloud State this weekend. The WCHA Final Five will be held at the Target Center the following weekend.
“It’s time for us to get off the fence,” junior defenseman Dylan Mills said. “We’ve put ourselves in a bad position, but we still control what happens. It starts with a win Friday.”
Minnesota leads off the weekend at home Friday before traveling to St. Cloud on Saturday. Coach Don Lucia has said he will start both his freshmen goaltenders this weekend, so whoever starts at Mariucci will watch at the National Hockey Center.
It will also be senior night for both teams.
Earlier in the year, Minnesota dropped a game at St. Cloud in overtime and followed up by allowing two goals in the last minute to tie the Huskies.
“We have to play better percentage hockey this time around,” sophomore forward John Pohl said. “I guess we’ll see what we’ve learned.”
The Huskies skate into the weekend ahead of Minnesota not only in the WCHA, but also in the Pairwise rankings, used to determine the 12-team NCAA tournament field.
St. Cloud also boasts a huge edge in goaltending, with All-WCHA candidate Scott Meyer backstopping the Huskies.
“We have to get to Meyer,” Lucia said. “He’s been such a tremendous part of their success, and we have to try to get as many shots on him as possible.”
The Gophers will almost undoubtedly face Colorado College in the first round of the playoffs. It has yet to be determined where the series will be.
The question is, where would the Gophers prefer the series? Minnesota has won their last five games on the road, while dropping their last three at home.
“I still think it’s much easier to win that first playoff series at home,” Lucia said. “We can still accomplish all of our goals this year, but we must have success this weekend, against another good team.”

Josh Linehan covers men’s hockey and welcomes comments at [email protected]