Gophers captain Taylor Matson is not too concerned about how the freshmen will play this weekend at North Dakota.
“Those young guys, they kind of got their experience here at home at the beginning of the year with how intense it was and the rivalry that is at stake this weekend,” Matson said.
The Gophers swept UND 2-0 and 3-2 on Nov. 4-5 at Mariucci Arena.
“We are going to North Dakota there is nothing like that atmosphere up there at North Dakota," Matson said. "A lot of guys are excited and we are just working hard this week getting ready for the games.”
With those two wins, the Gophers improved to 9-1. Since then they are 6-6-1 and have lost two in a row.
“This weekend is going to be a great test for us, how we can start off the second half,” Matson said.
Asked how the Gophers can beat North Dakota at the Ralph, Matson said, “It comes down to that battle and heart and want throughout the game. It’s winning those one-on-one battles. When you see guys blocking shots, it gets the bench excited. We need scoring from all four lines like we did during the first weekend against North Dakota.”
TIME AWAY NEEDED
Matson said he did not mind the 20-day break between the Gophers' series with Michigan Tech on Dec. 9-10 and the Mariucci Classic.
“A break is good for us," he said. "You are banged up during the year. So it is good to heal up during the Christmas break, see some family and friends. We are just ready to get back to work.”
“We have been home a lot. It is really going to be good for our team actually to head on the road. It brings everyone together on the road, being in the hotel and doing everything together."
Is the UND series different than others?
“This one, everyone is playing the body every single hit," Matson said. "[It's] a lot more intense. The power play and penalty kill is huge in these games and it comes down to who is going to win those one-on-one battles.
Asked about the first series with UND, Matson said, “It definitely showed a lot about what our team could accomplish this season, especially with a rival like them. Sweeping them at home was huge, but they have really been hot their last nine games (7-1-1). So we have to be ready to go this weekend. We know they are going to be real excited to be in their barn, and real excited for us to come up there.”
CHAT, CHAT, CHAT
* Live chat on Gophers-UND series will be held at noon Thursday on startribune.com (No North Dakota fans, please.)
OK, that was just a joke to get your attention. Everyone is welcome to join the chat as always, even fans of the team with no nickname. I will try to answer as many questions as I can.
* The Gophers-UND game on Friday will be nationally televised in Canada on theScore Television Network. It will be shown on tape delay at 4 p.m. Saturday. theScore is available in 6.8 million homes.
Four players signed with the Gophers two months ago during the November signing period. An official news release from the 'U' never has been issued. Not sure why.
But for the record, the Gophers signed defensemen Mike Reilly of the Penticton Vees in the British Columbia Hockey League and Brady Skjei of the under-18 U.S. national team, and forwards A.J. Michaelson of Waterloo of the USHL and Justin Kloos of Lakeville South.
All are expected to join the Gophers in 2012-13 with the possible exception of Kloos. He will play at Waterloo if nobody leaves the Gophers early. But that's an unlikely possibility.
Reilly's jump to the WCHA will be widely chronicled when it happens because his two older brothers, twins Connor and Ryan, will be joining the team with him. They signed in 2010. They, too, are playing for Penticton this season.
Goalie Adam Wilcox of Tri-City is the seventh recruit expected to be a Gopher. He, too, signed in 2010 but played another year in the USHL.