Series preview: Gophers hockey vs. Denver

  • Updated: February 28, 2013 - 10:50 PM

GOPHERS VS. DENVER

When, where: Friday and Saturday, 7 p.m., Mariucci Arena

TV, radio: BTN (Friday), FSN (Saturday), 1500-AM

Gophers at a glance: After last weekend's victory and tie against Minnesota Duluth, the No. 2 Gophers (21-6-5, 13-6-5 WCHA) will again try to end their habit of inconsistent play over a two-game series. Their goal is to earn their second WCHA sweep of the season in their final regular-season home series as members of the conference. Their recent history against Denver is not encouraging; the Pioneers have won eight of the past 10 games in the rivalry and are 3-1 in their past four games at Mariucci. Still, the Gophers are 13-2-3 at home this season. Coach Don Lucia said the Gophers' main task this weekend is to solidify their hold on a top-six position in the WCHA standings to ensure home ice for the first round of the league playoffs; only four points separate the top seven teams. To do so, he said, they will have to get in front of the net and create opportunities for second shots against a Denver defense that often gives them fits. F Seth Ambroz, who missed last weekend's series against Minnesota Duluth because of an unspecified injury, will play this weekend.

Denver at a glance: The No. 10 Pioneers (16-10-5, 11-8-5 WCHA) have had problems with consistency as well. In late December and early January, they gave up nine goals during a five-game undefeated streak; since then, they have gone 3-4-1, with opponents scoring 30 goals. Denver is 5-5-2 on the road this season but has won only one of five road games against ranked opponents. G Juho Olkinuora has the third-best save percentage in the WCHA (.928), but he has had to work hard for it, as his team allows opponents a league-high 32.7 shots per game. Denver is the most-penalized team in the WCHA (18 minutes per game), which could create opportunities for a Gophers power play that is ranked No. 1 in the nation. The Pioneers' penalty kill ranks second in the WCHA at 83.6 percent. This could be the last regular-season series between Denver and the Gophers for some time; Lucia said he has no plans to schedule the Pioneers in the near future as the Gophers move to the Big Ten Conference next season.

RACHEL BLOUNT

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