In-state dominance is something Gophers junior forward Leon Bristedt has never experienced. The Gophers have a dismal 4-13 record against the state’s other college hockey Division 1 talent since the Swede arrived in Minnesota two-plus years ago.
The Gophers last beat an in-state opponent on Nov. 13, 2015 at Minnesota State and will try to end a five-game losing streak against the rivals this weekend in a home-and-home series against No. 14 St. Cloud State. The No. 7 Gophers host the series opener Friday night at Mariucci Arena at 8 p.m. and the series wraps up in St. Cloud Saturday at 7:07 p.m.
The Huskies swept the Gophers last season.
Despite his relatively recent introduction to the old rivalries, Bristedt is eager to change the negative trend.
“It's a rivalry and that’s No. 1, which makes the game different. Also we know we’re playing a really good team, a good ranked team,” Bristedt said at Wednesday’s media access. "Since I got here, we‘ve been up and down against St. Cloud, so I’m excited to get going."
Bristedt said he’s learned to love the fans involved in the rivalries and “going up to St. Cloud and playing in a packed barn. The student section is probably going to be full when we warm up and it’s loud. And it’s always great scoring.”
Bristedt compared Minnesota’s college hockey rivalries to a fierce rivalry he was a part of at age 12 in Sweden.
“We just hated them, really. It wasn’t good,” Bristedt said about the two teams in the same district vying for the status of the country’s top team. “I was nervous for weeks before [the game].
“We were on the left side of the highway and they were on the right side of the highway, and we were probably the two best teams in the country, and I went to school with a couple of guys [on the other team]. You wanted to win those games.”
All five of Minnesota's men's Division 1 programs are ranked in the USCHO Top 20 this week for the first time in at least 10 years since the poll was expanded to included 20 teams. The national rankings put extra value on the in-state matchups and each team’s nonconference status. The Gophers missed the NCAA tournament last season because of its 6-11 nonconference record with eight of those games against Minnesota schools.
“What we do nonconference is important,” Gophers coach Don Lucia said. "We gave some games away nonconference that cost us come end of [last] year and now we’re 2-0 nonconference [this season] with 14 more to go."