The Gophers are excited for this weekend's series against North Dakota.
This is the first home WCHA series this season for the maroon and gold after they swept UMD and Alaska Anchorage on the road.
"We saw a lot of good teams; UMD was a good challenge for us," said sophomore Zach Budish, the right wing on the Gophers' top line. "We went up there and played them pretty well. So obviously North Dakota coming here. ... They are going to bring everything they've got, so we have to be ready definitely."
The Gophers lead the nation in scoring, averaging 5.38 goals per game. "We have a little more chemistry with our lines," Budish said. "Everybody has a little more confidence. Our freshman are helping us out, too. From the bottom to the top, every forward is working hard and everyone is doing their job.
"Last year a lot of us learned lessons: losing, getting swept by a lot of teams. Losing was not good for us. We are cracking down here, we are making sure we are ready for every game."
Budish, of course, missed most of last season because of knee surgery early in the season after a moped accident.
One reason for the Gophers' success is a power play humming at 35.9 percent, making it the best in the nation."Every guy is doing their job, that is the main thing," Budish said. "We've got a lot of skilled guys like Erik Haula who can really shoot the puck; that helps out a lot."
Budish said playing the Fighting Sioux is good. "It is a good measuring point," he said. "Obviously, North Dakota is always a good school. We will get to see where we are at definitely."
He said head coach Don Lucia has been telling the players that the team has to get points every weekend.
"It will be a tough [series]," Budish said. "They have some big defensemen, their top line of [Danny] Kristo, [Corban] Knight and [Brock] Nelson are three very good players. It will probably be the best line we played against this early in the season. We just have to contain them."
Budish said he has confidence in goalie Kent Patterson to do that. " I see him in practice," Budish said. "He robs me a couple times every day. It gets a little bit frustrating but his four shutouts, his goals-against [average], it is ridiculous.
"He had a good offseason and he took last year’s momentum right into this year and started out the year with two shutouts. ... We don’t want him to make 40 saves each night but he has the ability to do it like you saw up in Duluth."
Patterson had 46 saves each night as the Gophers swept UMD in two 5-4 games, the first game went into overtime.
NORTH DAKOTA MEMORIES
I'm compiling a list of the most memorable North Dakota-Gophers games. Blake Wheeler's diving goal in overtime, the Gophers beating North Dakota for the NCAA title in 1979, etc.
If you have a favorite game, I'd like to hear about it. Maybe it will make my list. Or perhaps I will make a longer list for this blog.
Also would be interested in hearing about what you think about the Sioux-Gophers rivalry. What makes this longtime series special? Any favorite memories from past games?
LIVE CHAT ON 'U' HOCKEY at NOON THURSDAY
There will be a live chat on Gophers hockey at noon Thursday on startribune.com ... One focus obviously will be the Fighting Sioux series this weekend. All questions welcomed, even from those who use Slap Shot aliases. Just saw the movie recently on cable.