I tried to get tickets for the Minnesota State Mankato series early this month. The man at the ticket booth said the only available seats were singles or standing room.

How odd then, to go to the second game of the series and see empty seats wherever one looked.  There were also plenty of empty seats for the Michigan Tech series the following weekend. And I expect there will be at the Mariucci Classis this weekend, too.

Apparently, a lot of people with tickets are picking and choosing which games to come to. There is also less talk about the Gophers on radio and TV than someone might expect.

After all, the Gophers are rated No. 2 in the national polls, are tied for first in the WCHA with defending NCAA champion Minnesota Duluth and have 14 wins -- more than any other college team in the land.

Why so little buzz? Maybe it just takes time for Gophers fans and the media to warm up to this team after four mediocre, under-achieving seasons?

Is this team for real? Seems to be.

Linemates Nick Bjugstad (16 goals) and Kyle Rau (12 goals) have already scored 28 goals between them. Bjugstad is on a pace for 30.

The 6-5 sophomore center is tied for second nationally in total goals with 16. He is tied for fourth in points with 27.

Rau leads all freshmen in goals with 12 and points with 22 -- in just 20 games. He had two more goals Monday against Denmark playing with the U.S. team in the World Junior Championships. Bjugstad is there, too, playing in Edmonton, Alberta.

It will be interesting how the Gophers' offense looks without those two in the Mariucci Classic. But the Gophers have other players who are scoring well, too.

Sophomore Erik Haula, the center on the Gophers second line, has 25 points, tying him for seventh nationally. Nate Schmidt, a sophomore defensemna, has 20 assists, tying him for first in Division I hockey, with Notre Dame forward T.J. Tynan. Schmidt's 21 total points is the second most for a blue line players, behind only Wisconsin's Justin Schultz who has 28.

And the Gophers still have dependable Kent Patterson in the nets. The senior has played 1,204 minutes and 6 seconds. Only Paul Karpowich of Clarkson has played more minutes (1,210:24).

 

 

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