Roman Augustoviz spends Minnesota's winters covering college hockey, specifically the Gophers, and other University of Minnesota sports. During the summer, he writes about the WNBA's Minnesota Lynx, with a dose of U sports sprinkled in. Follow him on Twitter @RomanStrib.

E-mail Roman

Gophers could be fighting for first -- or for home ice -- after Badgers series

Posted by: Roman Augustoviz under Gophers, Men's hockey Updated: February 14, 2013 - 1:30 PM

This is a huge weekend for the Gophers hockey team.

They were going to take a bus -- as usual -- for an unusual Friday-Sunday series against Wisconsin. Friday's game is at the Kohn Center in Madison, Sunday's game is outdoors at Soldier Field in Chicago.

The outdoor game is getting a lot of attention. But maybe more important is how much this series means. If the Gophers can sweep -- a big if considering they have one sweep in WCHA play -- they would be in contention for their second consecutive MacNaughton Cup.

If they get swept, they will be fighting for home ice, so bunched are the standings.

Here is how they look going into the weekend:

                                 W    L    T    Pts.

St. Cloud State     15    6    1     31

North Dakota        11     5    6     28

Gophers                 11    5     4     26

Neb. Omaha          12    8     2     26

Denver                    10     7     5    25

MSU Mankato        12     9      1    25

Wisconsin                9     6      7    25

Comments: Idle this weekend are St. Cloud State and North Dakota, the two teams ahead of the Gophers, and Denver, a point behind the maroon and gold, and Colorado College. The Gophers have two games in hand over those four  teams, but it will be gone after this weekend. So the Gophers need to get some points.

In a best case scenario for the Gophers, this is what would happen: the Gophers sweep Wisconsin, Minnesota State loses two at home to Michigan Tech and UNO loses two at Alaska Anchorage. If all that happens, the top of the WCHA standings would look like this:

                                 W     L    T    Pts.

St. Cloud State     15      6    1     31

Gophers                 13     5    4    30

North Dakota         11     5    6     28

Neb. Omaha          12   10   2     26

Denver                    10     7    5    25

MSU Mankato        12    11   1    25

Wisconsin                9     8    7    25

Comments: The Gophers would be on the Huskies' heels, with six games left for both teams. And they would be in good position for home ice in the first round of the WCHA playoffs.

But suppose everything went wrong for the Gophers. The Badgers sweep them and Minnesota State and UNO sweep. Here is how the standings would look then:

                               W    L    T    Pts.

St. Cloud State      15    6    1     31

Neb. Omaha          14    8    2     30

MSU Mankato        14     9    1    29

Wisconsin              11     6     7   29

North Dakota         11     5    6    28

Gophers                 11    5     4     26

Denver                    10     7     5    25

Comments: The Gophers would be in sixth place. Pretty much out of the MacNaughton Cup chase with five teams ahead of them and only six games left.

So what does The Don think?

 "It is going to be a great finish to the league that is for sure," Gophers coach Don Lucia said during his weekly radio show. "... It is going to go right to the very end, I think. Obviously, St. Cloud right now is in the driver's seat."

The Gophers and the Huskies split last weekend in St. Cloud. The Gophers won the first game 4-2, lost the second 4-3.

"We made a couple of mistakes that ended up costing us in [Saturday's] game," Lucia said. "Two of them were off a line change situations. I can't fault how hard we played. I can fault our execution in a couple of plays.

"We played well enough to win on Saturday. St. Cloud is a very good team."

RESURGENT BADGERS

Wisconsin was a mess early. The Badgers started the season 1-7-2 -- including a 2-2 tie and a 3-1 loss to the Gophers on Oct. 16-17 at Mariucci -- but, in their last 18 games, they are 11-2-5.

"Now they are scoring a little bit more," Lucia said. "They are very good defensively,  they just don't give up many goals. And that is why they are in so many close games. They tie a lot. They don't score a lot but they don't give up much.

"Our mindset has to be 2-1, 3-2 [games]. We are not going to score more than two or three goals, and that has to be  enough. So we have to play well defensively. We have to be disciplined and wait for our chances as well."

After Friday's game in Madison, the Gophers will spend the night there, then head to Chicago for an outdoor practice late afternoon Saturday at Soldier Field.

"Hopefully our guys will bring that linebacker mentality like some of those Chicago Bears guys, Dick Butkus, [Mike]  Singletary and [Brian] Erlacher. They have had a few good ones up the middle. "

Lucia said he expects the outdoor game to be fun for his players. "I think they sold over 50,000 seats, so it will be a good atmosphere, although some of them will be gone after the first game," he said.

Miami and Notre Dame will play in the first game.

"It would be great if it was in the highs 20s, cloudy and still," Lucia said. "That would be the picture-perfect day at Soldier Field." 

ON QUINNIPIAC BEING NO. 1

In the two major college hockey polls, Quinnipiac replaced  the Gophers at No. 1 while the Gophers, after six weeks in the top spot, dropped to No. 2.

"They [the Bobcats] are getting very good goaltending from Eric Hartzell, who is Kevin Hartzell's -- who played at the U -- his son. He is a senior and he is having a great year."

Hartzell is 21-2-4 with a 1.46 goals-against average, third best in Division I hockey. His save percentage is .936, seventh best. He has four shutouts, tied for second.

"I don't care who you play or what you do, you win 22 in a row, you have a good team," Lucia said.

Actually, that's close but not quite right. The Bobcats have a 21-game unbeaten streak (18-0-3) with

They are certainly deserving of that ranking. And they are the No. 1 team in the PairWise and i am not sure anybody is going to be able to catch them in that.

THE DON SAYS

On freshman defenseman Mike Reilly: "He was good defensively [in St. Cloud]. He created some offensive scoring chances. He did a good job breaking the puck up."  Past series was probably his best since the holiday break, Lucia said.

On defenseman Nate Schmidt, who has a goal in four consecutive games: He  is playing at an all-america level. "I'd like to see a little more goal-scoring back there [from other defensemen]. I think we have the capability of getting a few more pucks to the net. We have to do a better job, too. ... Our forwards, as we enter on the rush, [need] to look for that second wave of attack. And that is something we have to get better at."

 

ADVERTISEMENT

New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Seattle
Milwaukee 115 FINAL
Orlando 100
New York 82 FINAL
Indiana 103
Denver 69 FINAL
Memphis 99
Chicago 118 FINAL
LA Lakers 123
Montreal 1 FINAL
NY Rangers 0
Winnipeg 2 FINAL
Philadelphia 5
Boston 5 FINAL
NY Islanders 2
Arizona 3 FINAL
Toronto 1
Dallas 6 FINAL
Ottawa 3
Detroit 1 FINAL
Tampa Bay 5
Columbus 2 FINAL
Florida 3
Nashville 4 FINAL(SO)
St. Louis 5
Minnesota 1 FINAL
Calgary 0
Buffalo 2 FINAL
Edmonton 3
Anaheim 3 FINAL
San Jose 6
DePaul 72 FINAL
Providence 83
Michigan State 71 FINAL
Rutgers 51
Boston Univ 67 FINAL
Army 71
Fla Atlantic 61 FINAL
Charlotte 86
Youngstown St 87 FINAL
Detroit 93
East Tenn St 55 FINAL
Furman 59
Saint Louis 60 FINAL
George Mason 68
USC Upstate 78 FINAL
Jacksonville 65
High Point 72 FINAL
Liberty 53
Central Conn St 55 FINAL
Long Island 67
Western Ky 56 FINAL
Louisiana Tech 69
Dayton 64 FINAL
Massachusetts 66
Chattanooga 72 FINAL
Mercer 75
Wofford 58 FINAL
UNC Greensboro 42
Maryland 56 FINAL
Ohio State 80
FIU 56 FINAL
Old Dominion 71
Fair-Dickinson 65 FINAL
Robert Morris 87
Mount St Marys 67 FINAL
St Francis-NY 73
Bryant 68 FINAL
St Francis-PA 75
Northern Ky 75 FINAL
Stetson 85
Coll of Charleston 70 FINAL
Towson 74
Western Carolina 85 FINAL
Va Military 70
Sacred Heart 64 FINAL
Wagner 75
Lipscomb 62 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 78
Kennesaw St 67 FINAL
North Florida 86
Appalachian St 46 FINAL
Ga Southern 83
Holy Cross 54 FINAL
Loyola-Maryland 64
Eastern Ill 51 FINAL
UT Martin 81
Jacksonville St 82 FINAL
Belmont 103
Connecticut 58 FINAL
Cincinnati 70
Rider 58 FINAL
Saint Peters 49
SIU Edwardsville 75 FINAL
SE Missouri St 61
Marshall 69 FINAL
Southern Miss 54
Tenn Tech 56 FINAL
Tennessee St 64
Middle Tennessee 58 FINAL
TX-San Antonio 69
Ill-Chicago 65 FINAL
Milwaukee 71
Weber State 67 FINAL
North Dakota 60
Denver 54 FINAL
North Dakota St 61
IUPU-Ft Wayne 66 FINAL
South Dakota 55
Louisiana 85 FINAL
South Alabama 89
Ark-Little Rock 75 FINAL
Arkansas State 65
Georgia State 88 FINAL
Texas-Arlington 74
ULM 58 FINAL
Troy 55
Portland 46 FINAL
Gonzaga 64
Kentucky 69 FINAL
Missouri 53
Eastern Ky 78 FINAL
Murray State 85
UAB 69 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 71
Idaho State 76 FINAL
Northern Colorado 79
UMKC 57 FINAL
Grand Canyon 78
Chicago State 62 FINAL
Utah Valley U 78
Colorado 98 FINAL
USC 94
Cal Poly 57 FINAL
UC Irvine 67
Hawaii 84 FINAL
CS-Northridge 73
Pepperdine 50 FINAL
Pacific 43
Santa Clara 64 FINAL
San Diego 69
Utah 59 FINAL
UCLA 69
UC Santa Barbara 64 FINAL
UC Davis 70
Montana 73 FINAL
Portland State 54
Montana State 59 FINAL
Sacramento St 75
Long Beach State 91 FINAL
Cal State Fullerton 85
Loyola Marymount 54 FINAL
St Marys-CA 68
San Francisco 74 FINAL
BYU 78
California 76 FINAL
Washington St 67
Louisiana 47 FINAL
South Alabama 57
Saint Josephs 51 FINAL
Saint Louis 52
Appalachian St 77 FINAL
Georgia Southern 74
Niagara 58 FINAL
Saint Peters 65
Old Dominion 80 FINAL
FIU 67
Southern Miss 65 FINAL
Marshall 67
Georgia State 45 FINAL
TX-Arlington 57
Ark-Little Rock 69 FINAL
Arkansas State 70
ULM 51 FINAL
Troy 90
Pittsburgh 45 FINAL
(17) Duke 62
(6) Tennessee 73 FINAL
(10) Kentucky 72
(24) Oklahoma 81 FINAL
(14) Texas 84
Nebraska Omaha 59 FINAL
IUPU-Ft Wayne 70
UC-Riverside 68 FINAL
CS-Northridge 56
Army 65 FINAL
Boston U 40
New Orleans 40 FINAL
Nicholls 56
Charlotte 68 FINAL
Florida Atlantic 71
Towson 54 FINAL
Delaware 72
Hofstra 66 FINAL
Northeastern 45
New Hampshire 56 FINAL
Maine 87
Albany 89 FINAL
Vermont 48
Hartford 60 FINAL
Stony Brook 58
UNC-Wilmington 62 FINAL
William & Mary 67
Clemson 62 FINAL
Wake Forest 64
Alabama 54 FINAL
(1) South Carolina 85
(23) Syracuse 58 FINAL
(8) Louisville 78
Missouri 68 FINAL
Florida 52
Iona 66 FINAL
Fairfield 77
Manhattan 38 FINAL
Marist 77
NC State 63 FINAL
Virginia 71
(4) Notre Dame 74 FINAL
Virginia Tech 50
(22) Rutgers 58 FINAL
Purdue 49
(5) Maryland 91 FINAL
Michigan 65
Milwaukee 58 FINAL
Cleveland State 67
Wright State 108 FINAL
Oakland 89
Jacksonville 64 FINAL
USC Upstate 66
North Florida 40 FINAL
Kennesaw St 46
Stetson 62 FINAL
Northern Ky 68
Loyola-Maryland 57 FINAL
Holy Cross 51
Lamar 87 FINAL
Sam Houston St 68
Fla Gulf Coast 71 FINAL
Lipscomb 49
Vanderbilt 44 FINAL
(18) Miss State 69
IUPUI 62 FINAL
Western Ill 73
Abilene Christian 53 FINAL
Houston Baptist 50
Incarnate Word 54 FINAL
TX A&M-CC 63
McNeese State 78 FINAL
SE Louisiana 57
Oral Roberts 46 FINAL
South Dakota St 71
Louisiana Tech 66 FINAL
Western Ky 82
TX-San Antonio 53 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 73
Texas-El Paso 52 FINAL
UAB 67
Auburn 47 FINAL
Arkansas 52
Grand Canyon 65 FINAL
UMKC 59
Illinois 57 FINAL
(15) Nebraska 59
(20) Iowa 102 FINAL
Northwestern 99
Utah Valley U 55 FINAL
Chicago State 60
Green Bay 67 FINAL
Valparaiso 52
Ole Miss 41 FINAL
LSU 70
Portland State 31 FINAL
Montana 72
Sacramento St 64 FINAL
Montana State 91
North Dakota 55 FINAL
Weber State 48
Ohio State 85 FINAL
Wisconsin 73
Northern Colorado 61 FINAL
Idaho State 70
BYU 68 FINAL
San Francisco 63
St Marys-CA 56 FINAL
Loyola Marymount 49
Pacific 63 FINAL
Pepperdine 59
Cal-Irvine 61 FINAL
UC Santa Barbara 58
San Diego 64 FINAL
Santa Clara 61
UC Davis 64 FINAL
Cal Poly 72
Long Beach St 64 FINAL
Hawaii 72

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How should Timberwolves fans greet Kevin Love on Saturday?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT