Gophers only get one crack at CC this year

This is the first and only time the teams will meet this season.

Dane Mizutani

days this season and have fallen flat at times in the opening game of a weekend series. Their most recent case came in the form of a 2-1 loss to North Dakota last weekend. 

Conversely, the team is 9-1-1 on Saturdays, and that same weekend it manhandled UND with a 6-2 victory after falling the night before.

It has been a recurring theme all season âÄî almost as if the Gophers need to be punched in the face in order to respond.

This weekend, however, there will be no room for any sort of Friday night stagnancy as No. 4 Minnesota (16-8-1, 12-4-0 WCHA) is set to take on Colorado College at Mariucci Arena with a lot on the line.

âÄúWe only play them once, and theyâÄôre a team right on our tail,âÄù freshman phenom Kyle Rau said. âÄúWe need to come out strong Friday night âÄî thatâÄôs been our AchillesâÄô heel.âÄù

The Tigers sit third in the WCHA and should they sweep the Gophers this weekend, they will move into a tie atop the league.

Minnesota-Duluth can neither gain nor lose ground this week as it takes on nonconference foe Alabama-Huntsville at home.

The Gophers snapped their first three-game losing streak of the season with the split last weekend and Nate Schmidt said he thinks the team is back to where it needs to be.

âÄúWe got off track of what made us our team at the beginning of the year âÄî the hard work, the blocking shots, the finishing checks,âÄù Schmidt said of the losing streak.

Nearly all those inefficiencies were corrected Saturday and Minnesota coasted to a 6-2 win.

âÄúEvery team goes through slumps,âÄù Rau said. âÄúIf you look at teams in the Frozen Four last year, they went on some losing streaks this year.

âÄúIt was a blast playing Saturday because it was like, âÄòWow. WeâÄôre back.âÄô We just needed some confidence, and that definitely gave it to us.âÄù

The GophersâÄô attack continued to flourish amid the losses and ranks second in the nation with 4.00 goals-per-game.

Colorado College is one of the few teams in the nation that can match their offensive firepower.

âÄúTransition offense and defense is really important [this weekend] âÄî CC is one of the fastest teams youâÄôll see in college hockey,âÄù head coach Don Lucia said. âÄúThey have a very good transition game. They have an outstanding power play.

âÄúWe canâÄôt give up the power-play goals. We canâÄôt turn pucks over because theyâÄôll ram it down our throats with their speed and transition game.âÄù 

The Tigers score at a clip of 3.68 goals-per-game and the battle between the two offenses could create a much different series than the physical one of last weekend.

âÄúTheyâÄôre a fast team,âÄù leading scorer Nick Bjugstad said. âÄúThey like to play a fast pace transition game.

âÄúIt will be a little different than what we played in North Dakota last weekend, so weâÄôll adjust.âÄù

No. 11 Colorado College (13-8-1, 10-6-0 WCHA) is led by the brother tandem of Rylan and Jaden Schwartz.

Rylan Schwartz is third in the nation with 18 goals and has 27 points this season âÄî younger brother Jaden is close behind with 24 points in five fewer games.

Jaden Schwartz was also a captain for Team Canada in the World Junior Championship. Nick Bjugstad and Rau faced Jaden Schwartz in the World Junior Championship.

âÄúHeâÄôs a really crafty player âÄî super fast,âÄù Bjugstad said. âÄúI know him and his brother have a really good connection âĦ so weâÄôll have to look out for those two this weekend.âÄù