Captain Taylor Matson said Saturday's nonconference game against Notre Dame is huge for the Gophers because it could have an impact on their PairWise rating at the end of the season.
The PairWise ratings is a comparison of the nation's top teams based on four criteria, including head-to-head competition. It mimics how the NCAA picks its 11 at-large teams for its postseason tournament.
The Gophers are tied for No. 5 in the latest PairWise ratings, the Irish are No. 4.
Matson said the Irish have had good teams in recent seasons --- Notre Dame was in the Frozen Four last April -- and has two Minnesotans who will be fun to see. Anders Lee of the Irish used to play for Edina, Nick Larson for Apple Valley. Both are forwards.
The Gophers are coming off a 3-2 loss to Northeastern Saturday in the championship game of the Mariucci Classic. In that game, they took 13 penalties. Matson said too many of those penalties were for hooking, tripping, interference. Penalties players don't like to take. He said the Gophers need to move their feet better.
Matson and penalty killing partner Nate Condon both scored short-handed goals against the Huskies, but it wasn't enough.
"The whole thing is about playing two games strong all weekend," Condon said. "Niagara was a good team, but we had a lot of space out there and a lot of things went our way pretty easy."
The Gophers had a 2-0 lead against Niagara after a few minutes in their first Mariucci Classic game and eventually won 5-1.
"Northeastern came out and they just battled hard. When things got hard, we did not necessarily push back like we should have. We just have to learn how to play two games on a weekend."
He said the Gophers' 13 penalties were especially frustrating for some of his teammates.
"There are guys on our team that if they don't kill penalties, they don't even get out there," Condon said. "My linemate, Seth Ambroz, is not on the penalty kill. Killing 13 penalties or whatever we had, he doesn't even get on the ice."
NOTRE DAME EXPERT
Condon said he knows a lot about the Irish because his older brother Nick is a senior defenseman for them. He has played only two games this season, though, so it is unlikely he will play Saturday.
"I have heard a lot about them over the last four years," Nate Condon said. "I know they are a good team, a really disciplined team. It will be a hard weekend for us."
Nate, of course, hopes Nick will play: "If the chance ever happens that me and him go into the corner, it should be entertaining."
As for the short-handed goals, he and Matson scored in the last game, Condon said that both of them see to get scoring chances killing penalties almost every game. "it is just hard," Condon said. "You are playing defensively but at the same time you are trying to jump out of the zone.
"Taylor and I have had a couple two-on-ones where we actually just blown the pucks straight into the corner," Condon said. "That's like a dump-in. We've talked about it and it's basically get shots now, get pucks on the net and hopefully squeeze a puck in here or there."