Senior defenseman Cade Fairchild said he hopes the Gophers’ victory and tie with UMD in their last series has got them on a roll. A roll, he said, that could carry over into the Mariucci Classic on Friday and Saturday.

"These are a couple of nonconference games [against Union and Ferris State], but they are both ranked opponents and both are ahead of us," Fairchild said.

Union is No. 12 in the latest national poll, Ferris State is No. 18 and the Gophers No. 19.

"So it is obviously huge to get off the second half on a good foot," Fairchild said.

And on a good shoulder, too.

Fairchild suffered a shoulder injury on Dec. 10 early in the Gophers’ 3-2 victory over the Bulldogs. He did not return that game and did not play in a 2-2 tie the next night.

"For [the injury] to happen at that time was kind of fortunate because I was able to take two weeks off and really rehab it," said Fairchild, who plans to return to action Friday when the Gophers play Union at 6 p.m.

"We want the best to come and play us and we want to play the best," Fairchild said. "That’s the kind of games we have to play and that’s the kind of games we have to be able to win."


Gophers senior captain Jay Barriball on the team’s 9-7-2 record: "There is a lot of good things you can take from it and there is a lot of things we can work on. One of those things is consistency. We can come out and play a top five team in the country and play really well against them [UMD] and then we can come out and get swept by a team that is not even ranked [Minnesota State]. We have to come to the rink every day and play with the same type of intensity as we need to win. ... I think we are going to start making some steps in the second half."

 * Sophomore right wing Zach Budish, who had season-ending knee surgery after playing only seven games, is walking around without a crutch. He was injured in a moped accident.

 * Gophers coach Don Lucia said he is not too concerned about freshman forwards Erik Haula and Nick Bjugstad being drained after the heavy schedule of games in the World Junior Championships. That’s partly because the tournament is in Buffalo, N.Y., not in Europe.

"Also when they do come back, we play the U.S. under-18 team that first weekend," Lucia said. "Whether we play them when they come back or just give them three, four days off, we haven’t made that determination yet. But either way, if they do play Friday, they will have the opportunity to have Saturday and Sunday off and come back after it. And then we go to North Dakota and then have a week off again."

* Lucia, who has only 13 forwards available with the injury to Budish and the absence of Haula and Bjugstad, experimented with his lines this week. He had right wing Jay Barriball and center Taylor Matson together. They were linemates at Holy Angels once. He also paired former Hill-Murray teammates Nick Larson, a center or winger, with left wing Mike Hoeffel.


On Union: "They are an older team. They can get around the rink. They skate very well. One of their best players has been out. I think he might be back this weekend for us." ... That missing player is senior forward Adam Presizniuk, out since Nov. 13 when he suffered a broken right thumb in a game.

Presizniuk has 5 goals and 12 assists for 17 points, tied for fourth on the Dutchmen even though he has been sidelined for six games.

His next point will make him Union’s career scoring leader. Presizniuk has 41 goals and 74 assists for 115 points, which ties him with Jason Walters who was a senior last season. Presizniuk had an appointment to visit a doctor on Wednesday.

Another Union tidbit. Nate Leaman, in his eighth season as the Dutchmen’s coach, needs one more victory to become the program’s winningest coach. He has a career record of 122-122-33. Charlie Morrison went 122-146-9 from 1978-88. ... Freshmen defensemen Mike Ingoldsby remains out until at least next weekend with a concussion. ... The one Minnesota player on the team is sophomore defenseman Ryan Forgaard of Faribault.

 On Ferris State: "They are a great defensive team. I talked to some of the CCHA coaches and they said you better be good defensively. They don’t give up much. Two drastically different styles of play but two good opponents. It should be fun for fans to watch. They are the type of team that recruit the 21-year-old freshmen that become the 23 and 24-year-old juniors and seniors."

OK, the Gophers are not exactly youngsters in college hockey. According to College Hockey News, the average age of Gophers’ players is 21 years, 3 months. Ferris State is the next oldest team in the Mariucci Field, 21 years, 11 months. Union’s players are a year old than Minnesota’s, 22 years, 3 months and Bemidji State’s are the oldest at 22 years, 7 months.

 On the key to second half of season: "For us to really take a step the second half, our specialty teams have to improve. We have to be more consistent and score more regularly on the power play. And then our penalty kill. Our specialty play. If we can become a plus team on our specialty teams, we can get some secondary scoring, then I think we can be in a position to take a step forward the second half."