North Star College Cup
Xcel Energy Center
TV all games: FSN; Radio for Gophers games: 1500-AM
1 p.m.: MSU Mankato vs. St. Cloud State
4 p.m.: Gophers vs. Bemidji State
1 p.m.: Consolation game
4 p.m.: Championship
Gophers (13-10, 8-2 Big Ten)
The Gophers wrap up their nonconference schedule with this weekend’s third annual tournament for Minnesota college hockey rivals. They won the first North Star Cup in 2014 in a shootout over Minnesota Duluth, and Saturday’s foe, Bemidji State, won it last year. The Gophers are 18-1-1 against the Beavers, including an 11-game win streak dating to 2011, and 1-2-1 in North Star Cup games. Over the past 12 games, the Gophers are 9-3, with only one regulation loss in that span; a victory Saturday would extend their win streak to six games and would be their longest since the 2013-14 season. Junior F Hudson Fasching has a career-high 15 goals this season to go with 27 assists and has two or more points in four of the past five games. Junior F Justin Kloos also is hot, with goals in the past five games.
Bemidji State (10-10-5, 7-9-4 WCHA)
The field for the North Star College Cup includes four of the state’s five Division I teams each year; the Beavers sat out the inaugural tournament and won both games in their debut last season. Their only win against the Gophers came on Nov. 15, 2009, followed by their only tie in the series on March 4, 2011. Bemidji State enters Saturday’s game with only one loss in its past eight games. They are 6-3-2 on the road this season and feature an outstanding penalty kill, ranking third in the country with a success rate of 90 percent. Sophomore G Michael Bitzer is 4-1-2 in his past seven games with a goals-against average of 1.11 and save percentage of .953.
MSU Mankato (13-8-5, 12-3-5 WCHA)
The 19th-ranked Mavericks enter the tournament as the top team in the WCHA, with two losses in their past 15 games (8-2-5). They allow 21.8 shots per game, lowest in the nation, and have outshot their opponents in 20 of 26 games. MSU Mankato has not allowed a power-play goal in its past 12 games, preventing its opponents from scoring on 41 consecutive advantages. Freshman G Jason Pawloski has started 13 of the past 15 games and is 8-2-5 this season, with a 1.72 goals-against average and .908 save percentage. Senior F Teddy Blueger has three goals and 11 assists in the past 13 games, while senior D Jon Jutzi’s three power-play goals this season rank eighth nationally among defensemen. The Mavericks are 3-8 at Xcel Energy Center.
St. Cloud State (20-5-1, 12-3-1-1 NCHC)
The Huskies are the highest-ranked team in the field, third in both polls. Currently on a four-game unbeaten streak, they have reached 20 victories for the fourth consecutive season and lead the nation in goals (113) and scoring margin (+2.35). They are sound on defense, too, ranking seventh nationally with 2.00 goals allowed per game. Senior F Joey Benik was named NCAA first star of the week after recording two goals and five assists in last weekend’s sweep of Western Michigan; he leads the Huskies with 15 goals and also has 14 assists. SCSU is 1-1 in the North Star Cup, losing one and winning the consolation game in 2014.