Traditional Minnesota-Wisconsin rivalry weekends are for bragging rights and positioning in the college hockey polls.Good teams play to a good finish and all is as it should be.
This weekend at Mariucci Arena the rivalry has an unusual undertone -- both teams are desperate for wins. The Gophers have won just three of their last 10 games and have continued to tumble from No. 1 to No. 16 in the USCHO poll. Wisconsin has only won two games this season and will take any bit of success it can get.
It's quite the contrast from last year's Gophers and Badgers teams. Minnesota won the Big Ten regular-season championship, Wisconsin won the Big Ten tournament and each entered the NCAA tournament as the top seed for their region. Each team swept the other in the regular season with three games determined by one goal.
It's unclear what result we'll see this weekend with both teams so inconsistent throughout the first half of the season.
"Obviously went want to get back on track and we need to this weekend," Gophers senior forward Seth Ambroz said. "Obviously they'll be coming with a big rivalry, so it will be a good series and we do need to take a step forward this weekend as a team."
Gophers coach Don Lucia is hoping a significant lineup shakeup will help the team take a step forward. All four lines of forwards are new combinations for the season with Sam Warning, Travis Boyd and Hudson Fasching leading as the top line.
Sophomore defenseman Michael Brodzinski isn't in the lineup after nursing an injury throughout the week. He did practice and could return on Saturday.
My feature this week relives the long journey Connor Reilly has overcome -- two knee surgeries and 19 months away from hockey -- to become the Gophers' leading goal-scorer. Check out video of forward Seth Ambroz, defenseman Brady Skjei and coach Don Lucia previewing the Border Battle.
• SERIES PREVIEW: NO. 16 GOPHERS VS. WISCONSIN
8:10 p.m. Friday and 5 p.m. Saturday at Mariucci Arena
TV/radio/live stream: BTN on Friday and FSN on Saturday; 1500-AM both nights; BTN2Go both nights
Gophers at a glance: The situation continues to get worse at Mariucci Arena. The Gophers (10-7-1 overall, 1-2-1-0 Big Ten) have three of their last 10 games and are coming off a pair of losses at Michigan – the second time they’ve been swept this season. Despite having a healthy and full roster last weekend, the Gophers’ defense failed to keep up with the Wolverines’ top-end scorers and gave up 11 goals in two games and saw goaltender Adam Wilcox pulled from a game for just the second time in his career. Things need to change, which is why coach Don Lucia spent the week reshuffling line combinations in hope it will re-energize the bunch.
For more on Wisconsin read the full series preview.
• Gophers Friday lines
Forwards (left wing, center, right wing)
Sam Warning, Travis Boyd, Hudson Fasching
Kyle Rau, Justin Kloos, Connor Reilly
Taylor Cammarata, Vinni Lettieri, Seth Ambroz
A.J. Michaelson, Christian Isackson, Leon Bristedt
Defensemen (left, right)
Steve Johnson,Mike Reilly
Brady Skjei, Ryan Collins
Jake Bischoff, Ben Marshall
Adam Wilcox, Nick Lehr, Ryan Coyne
• Minnesotans in Wisconsin's lineup
Joseph Labate, Sr. forward, Eagan
Grant Besse, Soph. forward, Plymouth
Eddie Wittchow, Jr. defenseman, Burnsville
Jack Dougherty, Fr. defenseman, Cottage Grove
Kevin Schulze, Jr. defenseman, White Bear Lake