Any offensive spark generated from the Gophers' lineup changes last weekend won't be recreated on Friday night against No. 1 Minnesota State in the first round of the North Star College Cup.
With sophomore forward Vinni Lettieri serving a one-game suspension for leaving the bench during Saturday night's last-minute scuffle against Wisconsin, the lines will be forced to revert back to what we've seen throughout most of the season.
Senior captain Kyle Rau will return to his role at the center position on the first line, while senior Travis Boyd drops back to the third line's center spot to fill Lettieri's hole.
The shakeup of line combinations produced 99 shots on goal last weekend for season high shot production in each game. The Gophers converted only two into goals on Friday night, but five in the series finale 5-2 victory. None of last week's lines will be together on Friday night.
"We have to revamp the lines a little bit," Gophers coach Don Lucia said. "One of the things we did well is we didn't turn the puck over as much this past weekend. When you don't turn pucks over you don't put yourself in a vulnerable area defensively and you can get more end zone offensive time. I thought our puck pursuit was much better, I thought our time in the offensive zone was much better and hopefully that will continue as we move forward the rest of the year. It was great that a couple guys scored that hadn't in a while. Hudson [Fasching] had a goal and [Sam] Warning had a goal, and now we need to see the guys score that need to score for us on a regular basis."
The Gophers will also be without regular defenseman Ryan Collins. The freshman was sick throughout the week and will miss the tournament opener. See the full lines below.
Lucia's scouting report on Minnesota State: "They've got good goaltending, they don't give up much defensively and they can score. They've got some real high-end forwards and they have forward depth. I think that's one of the things when you look at their lineup, they're good offensively.
• My feature this week addresses a possible power shift among Minnesota's college hockey programs. Watch Michael Rand and me preview the North Star Cup and hear from senior forward Travis Boyd, captain Kyle Rau, goaltender Adam Wilcox, and coach Don Lucia.
• 2ND ANNUAL NORTH STAR COLLEGE CUP PREVIEW
Xcel Energy Center
No. 7 Minnesota Duluth vs. Bemidji State, 4 p.m. • TV: FSN Plus
No. 1 Minnesota State Mankato vs. No. 17 Gophers, 7 p.m. • TV: FSN Plus (1500-AM)
Gophers (11-7-2, 2-2-2 Big Ten): The state’s traditional power program will play the underdog role this weekend. The Gophers are ranked behind Minnesota State and UMD after struggling the past two months. They are hoping the North Star College Cup will be the catalyst to having a better second half. Senior captain Kyle Rau is convinced the transformation is on track after last weekend’s 99 shots on goal against Wisconsin and fewer mental miscues. Goaltender Adam Wilcox said the talented field will be a good test. Last year, the Gophers entered the tournament at No. 1 and beat the Bulldogs.
Minnesota State Mankato (18-4-1, 15-2-1 WCHA): The Mavericks are in their second week as the top-ranked team in the nation after claiming that spot for the first time in program history. They haven’t lost since early December and are riding an eight-game unbeaten streak. A veteran roster and proven goaltender has been the recipe for success. Bryce Gervais (13 goals) and Matt Leitner (19 assists) lead a speedy offense that averages 3.74 goals per game. Goalie Stephon Williams has a .922 save percentage and 1.71 goals-against average two years after being named the WCHA Rookie of the Year.
For more on the North Star College Cup read the full series preview.
• Gophers' Friday lines
Forwards (left wing, center, right wing)
Connor Reilly, Kyle Rau, Hudson Fasching
Sam Warning, Justin Kloos, Taylor Cammarata
Leon Bristedt, Travis Boyd, Seth Ambroz
A.J. Michaelson, Christian Isackson, Ryan Reilly
Defensemen (left, right)
Brady Skjei, Mike Reilly
Ben Marshall, Jake Bischoff
Steve Johnson, Michael Brodzinski
Adam Wilcox, Nick Lehr, Ryan Coyne
• Minnesotans on the Mavericks' roster
Blake Thompson, Jr. defenseman, Eden Prairie
Zach Palmquist, Sr. defenseman, South St. Paul
Max Gaede, Sr. forward, Woodbury
C.J. Franklin, Fr. forward, Forest Lake
Zach Stepan, Soph. forward, Hastings
Brett Stern, Sr. defenseman, Lino Lakes