Men’s Hockey Pregame: Minnesota vs. British Columbia

Max Sanders

Just one day after the start of practice and 12 days before the regular season opener, the Minnesota men’s hockey team begins its season today with a 4:00 p.m. exhibition game against British Columbia.

 

Winners of their past 11 exhibition games, Minnesota is playing British Columbia for just the second time ever. The first meeting between the schools took place in last years exhibition game, with the Gophers winning that contest 3-1.

Minnesota plays a British Columbia team that split its opening series against Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, and lost yesterday 4-0 to Minnesota Duluth. Two of the Thunderbird players have prior experience playing the Gophers in alternate jerseys. Tyler Ruel and Jordan Inglis both played against the Gophers in 2007-08, while members of Wayne State.

 

The Gophers are eager to begin the season. During media day, head coach Don Lucia and some veteran players expressed excitement at starting this season, hoping to erase the disappointment felt by last years finish. The 2008-09 season saw the Gophers finish 17-13-7, and their season ended in the WCHA Final Five play-in game with a 2-1 loss to Minnesota Duluth. That loss kept Minnesota out of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2000.

 

While the Gophers return over 80 percent of their offense, they will be missing last season’s most potent and lethal offensive weapon, forward Ryan Stoa. Lucia has said he is not counting on one individual person to fill in for Stoa’s absence, but rather a mix of players each improving their scoring totals. Instead of one person scoring 25 goals, Lucia has said he expects five players to each score five more goals to help counter Stoa’s departure.

 

Lucia also said he is using today’s game to get videotape of players and find out which line combinations produce the best chemistry. Look for various line match-ups not just in today’s exhibition, but in the first couple regular season games as well.

 

Other key things to watch during todays game include freshmen play. While this years crop of freshmen is down number-wise, it is still in the upper-echelon talent-wise. Highlighted by Minnesota Wild first-round draft pick Nick Leddy, the freshmen will look to get acclimated to college hockey in this game, as they are thrust right into one of the toughest rivalries in college hockey in the regular season when the Gophers take on the Sioux of North Dakota in Grand Forks on Oct. 16.

 

Another key note during today’s game will be Alex Kangas. The junior goaltender had a rocky sophomore campaign, and while Lucia has said Kangas will be the goalie to start the year, he also said sophomore goalie Kent Patterson will get playing time between the pipes. For Kangas, he will try to carry over last season’s late year success, finishing the regular season with a shut-out over Michigan Tech and strong performances against St. Cloud in the first round of the WCHA Tournament.

 

To stay updated on the game, follow the live blog in Upon Further Review.