Gophers could clinch home-ice with sweep

The Minnesota menâÄôs hockey team will close out the regular season this weekend with a two-game series against last-place Michigan Tech in Houghton, where coach Don Lucia has not lost during his tenure with the Gophers. All Minnesota (14-11-7 overall, 11-10-5 Western Collegiate Hockey Association) needs to do is sweep the Huskies in order to guarantee its hold on home ice advantage in the WCHA playoffs. But sweeping is easier said than done for this team that has only two conference sweeps all season âÄî both against St. Cloud State âÄî and has only won back-to-back games four times all year. âÄúThis weekendâÄôs about getting home ice in any way, shape or form,âÄù Lucia said. âÄúOur goal is to play [in Mariucci Arena] next weekend.âÄù In fact, the Gophers arenâÄôt even thinking about a sweep, junior forward Ryan Flynn said. âÄúWeâÄôve got to take it one game at a time. ThatâÄôs how we always want to look at it. You never try to talk about a sweep until you take care of business Friday night,âÄù Flynn said. âÄúFriday night is our biggest game right now. ThatâÄôs what we have to look forward to and thatâÄôs what we have to focus our attention on.âÄù TheyâÄôre not taking their opponent lightly either. Despite having just one conference victory this year âÄî a 2-1 win over North Dakota on Dec. 28 âÄî the Huskies have managed to get points in all but three WCHA series this season. âÄúTheyâÄôre in every game,âÄù Lucia said of a Huskies team that hasnâÄôt won in 2009. âÄúWe are very similar. They might be struggling right now, we werenâÄôt doing [so] great,âÄù junior forward Ryan Stoa said. âÄúWeâÄôre definitely going to need to have everybody on board this weekend.âÄù Michigan Tech (5-22-7, 1-18-7) might have the nationâÄôs worst offense with just 52 goals this year, but it has only been swept once in the last nine weekends of action. The Huskies defense also helps counteract the offenseâÄôs lack of production. âÄúItâÄôs not going to be a blowout by any means,âÄù junior forward Flynn said. âÄúJust because they havenâÄôt been doing so well this season, it doesnâÄôt mean theyâÄôre not going to be a tough team to play against. All their games have been close one-goal, two-goal games.âÄù Michigan Tech had last weekend off âÄî giving a little rest to the oft-injured Huskies. Minnesota currently is in a three-way tie with Minnesota-Duluth and St. Cloud State for the fifth and final seed for home ice advantage but holds the tiebreaker over both teams. The Bulldogs host Alaska Anchorage this weekend while St. Cloud State plays a home and home series with Minnesota State. The Gophers could jump as high as third in the conference depending on their performance as well as other WCHA teams but could also fall as far as seventh in the standings. âÄùWe control our own fate,âÄù Stoa said. âÄúYou can look at it as a positive âÄî thatâÄôs where we want to be right now.âÄù