Wisconsin still important series for Gophers, but not for usual reasons

Both teams are struggling as home-ice advantage for the playoffs is on the line.

With home-ice advantage for the playoffs on the line, the Minnesota men’s hockey team will conclude a five-game road trip this weekend against Wisconsin.


WHERE: Kohl Center, Madison, Wis.
WHEN: 7:07, tonight and 7:07 p.m., Saturday
TV: Fox Sports Net North, CSTV (Sat.)
RADIO: WCCO 830 AM (Fri.) / KTNF 950 AM/KUOM 100.7 FM and 106.5 FM (Sat.)
Minnesota leads the all- time series 148-78-15

And although neither team is at the apex of the conference, this weekend could make for one of the more interesting match-ups between the bordering rivals.

Both teams are idling around the .500 mark in both their overall and conference records. Minnesota sits at 12-10-4 overall, with two more games (both wins) than Wisconsin, while both teams own a 6-8-2 WCHA record.

That puts the two in a three-way tie for fifth place in the conference with St. Cloud State, meaning whichever team comes out of this weekend with the most points will hold home ice for the playoffs in its hands.

“We have to get points every weekend,” Minnesota coach Don Lucia said. “We’re anticipating low scoring games (this weekend) and we just have to find a way to win.”


(12-10-4 overall, 6-8-2 WCHA) National Ranking: NR

Minnesota Stat
Despite scoring first in 20 of its 26 games this season, the Gophers are tied with opponents, scoring 69 goals each – they’ve also each recorded 14 power-play goals.

Freshman goalie Alex Kangas: Kangas will try to keep his 2-0-3 road unbeaten-streak alive this weekend in Madison.
If he’s successful, the Gophers could claim fifth-place in the WCHA for themselves and break-up a three-way tie.
Sophomore forward Mike Carman: Carman hasn’t exactly exploded back onto the scene in the second half – he has just two points (one goal, one assist) in four games since his return to the line-up.
But he has shown promise and he’s already giving Lucia another scoring line behind senior Ben Gordon and junior Blake Wheeler on the Gophers’ top line.

Wisconsin and Minnesota look similar on the ice as well.

Both teams have seen struggles in goal this season – Wisconsin with junior Shane Connelly and Minnesota with freshman Alex Kangas and junior Jeff Frazee.

Kangas has stepped up recently and looks forward to maintaining his improved play this weekend when he’ll start Friday night.

“It’s a great rivalry,” freshman goalie Alex Kangas said of his first meeting with the Badgers. “Hopefully, we can go into there and come out with a few more victories.”

Both teams are young across the board. Wisconsin knew it would be rebuilding this year, while remodeling the program came as a bit of a surprise to the Gophers.

Both teams are generally known as offensively minded yet they haven’t been able to find the back of the net on a regular basis or a regular contributor for that matter.


(10-10-4 overall, 6-8-1 WCHA) National Ranking: NR

Wisconsin Stat
The last time Wisconsin and Minnesota faced-off when both teams were unranked was Nov. 13-14, 2003. After a 3-3 OT tie on Friday, the Badgers edged out the Gophers 4-3 the following night at the Kohl Center.

Freshman forward Kyle Turris : After streaking out of the gate as the season began, Turris has been slowed down as opponents have focused on shutting down the highly-touted rookie.
Nevertheless, his 24 points with nine goals and 15 assists, are still second most among conference freshmen and sixth most among all WCHA skaters.
Junior goalie Shane Connelly : With Brian Elliot gone and taking most of Wisconsin’s goaltending records along with him, Connelly has struggled to adjust to being the Badgers every day starter.
With a 9-10-2 record, Connelly’s .476 winning percentage is ninth best in the conference, just ahead of Minnesota junior Jeff Frazee.

However, one element sticks out in favor of the Badgers – performance in the third period.

Wisconsin leads the WCHA in third period scoring with 36 goals – almost half of all the team’s goals.

“Is that conditioning? Part of it is. Is it part of their competitiveness? Is it the fact that we’ve been behind and had to play well?” Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves said. “You know, all those things could be rolled into one, but the fact is that when we have needed to press the accelerator in the third period and do some things, we’ve had that ability.”

Meanwhile the Gophers are statistically at their worst in the final minutes of regulation – giving up a conference-high 34 goals in the third.

The team has given up only 35 goals in the first two periods and overtime combined.