For $4, Gophers fans could have bought an official game program Saturday night. And guess who was on the cover? Nick Bjugstad.
Good timing there. No. 27 -- that's the number his uncle Scott wore when he played at the U -- had a hat trick to lead the Gophers to a 5-0 victory over St. Cloud State. On the cover his eyes are staring straight ahead. He appears to be skating in a game or practice.
The 6-5, 211 Bjugstad still has room to fill out, but Zach Budish calls him probably the strongest player on the team. And he has skills.
His 13 goals this season are as many as then-senior Mike Hoeffel had last season to lead the team. He is tied for first in scoring nationally with 13 goals and eight assists for 21 points, and is second in goals behind Austin Smith of Colgate who has 15, including four short-handed.
The two other players with 21 points are T.J. Tynan of Notre Dame (4-17--21) and Jack Connolly of Minnesota Duluth (8-13--21).
* Defenseman Nate Schmidt, who has assists on Bjugstad's two power-play goals on Saturday, is second nationally in points among blue-liners with 16 on one goal and and NCAA-best 15 assists for D-men.
* Freshman Kyle Rau continues to lead rookies in goals with nine and points with 17.
* Senior goalie Kent Patterson's six shutouts are three more than any goalie has this season. One of three goalies with three goose eggs is UMD's Kenny Reiter.
The Gophers will probably slip to second or lower when the national polls come out on Monday because of their split with St. Cloud State this weekend. The Huskies won the first game 4-3 in St. Cloud.
I don't have a pick in the polls but, if I did, my top five would be:
1. Merrimack 8-0-1
Comments: Only unbeaten team, plays in strong Hockey East Conference, overtime win over Boston University recently. Idle this weekend.
2. Gophers 11-3-0
Comments: Could easily be 14-0. Losses were to Vermont, Wisconsin and St. Cloud State, teams they would have beat 10-5, 5-4 and 8-4 in two-game, total-goals series. Dominated each in one game.
3. Minnesota Duluth 9-3-2
Comments: Defending NCAA champion Bulldogs are 8-0-2 since being swept in two one-goal games by the Gophers early in the season.
4. Notre Dame 9-2-2
Comments: Irish on 7-0-2 roll and have two of the top offensive threats in country in T.J. Tynan and Anders Lee; beat Boston College 3-2 in overtime Friday
5. Ohio State 7-2-1
Comments: Not usually high in polls, but coming off a sweep at Michiganl 8-0-1 in last nine games. Former Badgers assistant Mark Osieck is the Buckeyes head coach.