Bulldogs and Gophers set to renew rivalry

Sarah Mitchell

Past numbers indicate that this weekend’s men’s hockey games will be less about finesse and more about brutality when Minnesota hosts WCHA opponent Minnesota-Duluth.
In their last seven series matchups, the in-state rivals have combined for an average of 32 penalties and 85 penalty minutes per game.
“I think a lot of guys, either way, whoever’s winning or losing, sometimes they get carried away and we get out of hand on the ice,” Gophers junior center Erik Westrum said. “The penalty minutes go up and the rest is history.”
This season, the Gophers (2-7-1, 1-4-1 WCHA) have kept a cool head on the ice. Minnesota accumulated 72 penalties for 144 minutes, making it one of only three WCHA teams to average under 15 penalty minutes per game this year.
But two Gophers have other reasons to take cheap shots at the visiting Bulldogs (4-2-0, 4-2-0). Forwards Aaron Miskovich and John Pohl have freshman brothers on the Duluth roster.
“I suppose if UMD won, my family would try and be happy, but they’d be more happy if the Gophers won,” Miskovich said.
The Miskovich family hasn’t had much reason to celebrate this season. After 10 games — all of which were against teams in the nation’s top 10 — the Gophers are eighth in conference standings.
“Being so close in so many games, it’s frustrating not being able to get over the hump, yet,” Minnesota coach Don Lucia said.
If the Gophers are going to pick up some points, they may have to get down and dirty with Duluth.
But they’re already short on healthy bodies. Minnesota skated a line short last weekend against Wisconsin, when several players went down against the Badgers.
While sophomore Nick Angell — one of those injured — should play, Gophers freshman Nick Anthony and senior Rico Pagel probably won’t see action in the Duluth series. Anthony is recovering from a rib contusion and Pagel from a sprained ankle.
For them, it could mean waiting until Feb. 4-5, when the rivalry, which dates back to the early 1960s, continues at Duluth. Although, looking at history, the injured Gophers might be getting the better end of the deal.
“They’re not going to hold back because every team that plays the Gophers is out to get blood,” Westrum said.

Sarah Mitchell covers men’s hockey and welcomes comments at [email protected]