"Tech is off to a great start with their new coach," Gophers coach Don Lucia said, referring to Mel Pearson. "He wants to play a much more pressure-based system. They had a good nucleus of returning players. Three of their top four scorers were freshmen. [Jordan] Baker didn't play last year with an injury. He is one of their top scorers. [Brett] Olson only played half their games, he is one of their top scorers as a senior.
"They have some guys who can put the puck in the net. And more than anything else, that is what has been missing from their program the last number of years. But now they are scoring."
Tech is tied for sixth place in the WCHA this season after finishing last the past three seasons.
"They basically had three freshman forwards who had 20 points, which is an outstanding freshman year," Lucia said. "Well, now they are sophomores. And a couple of freshman have come in and scored again. They have six guys who have scored five goals or more so far this year. So they are off to a great start."
Sophomore Milos Gordic leads Tech in goals with seven.
And Gordic, a 6-5, 210 sophomore center, is one of those freshmen who put up numbers last season. He tied for the team scoring lead. He are the three freshmen who were among Tech's top four scorers:
1. (tie) F Gordic 15-6-21
1. (tie) F Ryan Furne, 6-2, 215 12-9--21
4. F Jacob Johnstone, 5-11, 190 4-15--19
OTHER TECH STRENGHTS
"Their specialty teams have been very strong," Lucia said, "and they are getting a great performance from their senior goaltender [Josh Robinson]."
The Huskies have scored 15 power plays and fiven up 14, so they are a plus-one.
Robinson is 7-5-1 with a 2.45 goals-against average and a .920 save percentage -- third best in the WCHA.
"They are off to a great start," Lucia said. "They have taken advantage of some of their home games [6-3-1]. Their crowds are coming back, so it is great for their program."
BJUGSTAD CINCH FOR WORLD JUNIORS
Lucia said forwards Nick Bjugstad and Kyle Rau still have to go through the U.S. tryout camp for the World Junior Championships, but he expects Bjugstad to make the cut down from 29 to 22. The camp starts Dec. 17 in Camrose, Alberta, just outside Edmonton.
"Kyle probably has a little bit of work to do when he gets up there to make sure he impresses the coaches," Lucia said. "But both of them are deserving. Both have had outstanding seasons for us this year. Both of them are terrific teams players and you need that for a short tournament environment. They will be willing to accept whatever role given [them].
"Both would represent our country tremendously."
Rau's versatility -- he can play on the power play and penalty kill -- should help his chances of making the team. USA head coach Dean Blais, who also coaches Nebraska Omaha, is looking for players capable of fitting into several roles.
Rau has played left wing for the Gophers, but he could play center in a pinch, too. He was a center all his life.
The Gophers will be without Bjugstad and possibly Rau, just for their two games in the Mariucci Classic on Dec. 30 and 31.
"It will give a couple of other players who maybe haven't had a chance to play much to show what they can do," Lucia said.
THE DON SAYS
* On surging UMD which has a 12-game unbeaten streak (10-0-2): "They are going to be a force the second half of the season, so we are glad we are finished with them right now."
* On freshman forward Seth Ambroz, who broke a long dry spell with a goal last Saturday: "We made a very difficult decision to take him out of the lineup on Saturday [at Michigan State two weekends ago]. We told him we did that because sometimes you have to take a step back to take a step forward. We told him we thought it would be good for him just to sit up and watch a game and hopefully relax a little bit.
"He came back, had a great week of practice and it was nice to see him get rewarded. We have seen him perform in practice. It has not necessarily carried forth during the game. But he got rewarded [last] Saturday which was good to see."
* On 13-4-1- record so far: "We are sitting in great shape, but at the same time it is not even Christmas. There is a lot of hockey to be played. We have a very difficult second-half schedule within the league. ... As long as we can stay healthy and Kent [goalie Kent Patterson] continues to play like he has, we will be in good shape at the end."