Don Lucia's Gophers team have been very successful playing games at Alaska Anchorage. They are 13-3-2 in nine trips there in Lucia's time at the 'U'.
"We have had good teams, it starts there," said Lucia, in the middle of his 13th season as the Gophers coach. "But what happens in the past has no bearing on the present. We've got very few players who have even played up there or even made the trip when you look at our roster because we didn’t go there last year.
"None of our freshmen or sophomores have been there. We only have one junior [defenseman Seth Helgeson] and a handful of seniors, so this will be the first trip for a lot of these kids."
The Gophers' leading scorer against UAA is senior winger Jake Hansen with two goals and one assist for three points. Four other players have two points against the Seawolves, four one point.
Kent Patterson had a solid 2.04 goals-against average and a .929 save percentage against the Seawolves last season but was 1-3-0.
"It is obviously a beautiful place, but we don’t have time to go on sightseeing trips," said Lucia, who was the Alaska Fairbanks head coach from 1987-93. "I enjoyed my week [vacation there] this summer fishing and getting around the state in July. I had a great time. But we get in Thursday afternoon, we play Friday and Saturday nights and come back Sunday morning. It is a quick trip,"
Lucia said the biggest problem playing games in Alaska is the three-hour time change. "You have the [six-hour] flight, but even that it is a direct flight for us. So it is not a big deal. The hard part for us is just the time change. ... The games are starting at 10 [p.m. CDT] and then you get up and your clock is a little bit off."
"Anchorage is a much better team" than in years past, Lucia said. "They had a great end of the year last year. Their program has been getting better every year. They have a very veteran team right now."
In the first round of the WCHA playoffs last March, the Seawolves beat the Gophers 4-3 and 2-0 and blocked 50 shots, four out of 10, over the weekend.
"You have to keep shooting [against them], that is No. 1," Lucia said. "We didn’t see anything different watching their video against [Nebraska] Omaha. They are going to lay down and block shots. That is just part of their identity, and so it is difficult to get pucks through."
UNO got enough through to sweep the Seawolves 4-1 and 3-1 in Omaha last weekend.
"We have to try to win games that are going to be lower scoring, 3-2 type of games. We are not going to go up there and score a bunch of goals. They don’t give you a lot. They are very disciplined, they don’t take a lot of penalties. and they are veteran basically in every position, so it will be a good test for our group."
power play 36.3 18.2
penalty kill 87.9 79.2
goals per game 5.83 3.17
goals-against 2.17 2.67
shots per game 37.5 32.0
penalties per gm 8.2 4.8
UAA sophomore goalie Chris Kamal wasn't playing much until he shut out the Gophers 1-0 on Jan. 29, then he beat them twice more in the playoffs.
"He played very well against us last year," Lucia said. "But [Rob] Gunderson is back too. They have some experience there. We are just trying to get better. It is early in the season. We talked about this [being] Game 3 and 4 in the league, all on the road. [The Gophers swept Minnesota Duluth in their first two WCHA games.] We are grateful we put some points in the bank up in Duluth from our first road trip.
"We played pretty well on the road. I am looking forward to getting on road with this group, too."
The Gophers were 7-4-3 on the road last season, averaging 3.57 goals per game.
* The only time the Seawolves have ever swept the Gophers in Anchorage was Nov. 14-15, 1997 when Doug Woog was the 'U' coach. The score of both games was 3-2.
* Friday is Wells Fargo Key Chain Night at Sullivan Arena, Saturday is Trick-or-Treat Night with the Seawolves