Coming off a series split at then-No. 6 North Dakota, Gophers men's hockey coach Bob Motzko said he believes the Gophers are headed in the right direction.
"We're working forward in a lot of areas," Motzko said. "We've had some pretty impressive wins in there, and we've played a tough schedule."
One of those was a 5-1 victory over North Dakota in the series opener in Grand Forks, N.D., last Friday. The Fighting Hawks earned a split with a 3-2 victory on Saturday.
The loss to the Fighting Hawks on Saturday called attention to an issue for the Gophers, heading into this weekend's series at No. 3 Michigan.
"Of our seven losses," Motzko said, "six are by one goal. We can't have too many more one-goal losses. We need to rectify that."
On Friday, at the Wolverines' Yost Arena, the No. 11 Gophers will be facing a talented Michigan team, which features a lineup with seven players who have been selected in the first round of the NHL draft.
Four of those players were selected in the top six picks of this year's draft: Owen Power (No. 1), Matty Beniers (No. 2), Luke Hughes (No. 4) and Kent Johnson (No. 5).
The other first-rounders are Mackie Samoskevich (No. 24 in this year's draft), Brendan Brisson (No. 29 in 2020) and Johnny Beecher (No. 30 in 2019).
"There is a lot of hype about Michigan," said Motzko, "and rightfully so with those first-round picks."
Johnson (four goals, 19 assists) and Power (three goals, 20 assists) lead the Wolverines in scoring. Power is tied for the Division I lead in assists. Beniers leads the team with 11 goals.
The Wolverines are coming off a nonconference sweep of Niagara at home last weekend. In their most recent conference series, the Wolverines were swept at home by Notre Dame. The Irish won both games in overtime, 3-2 and 5-4.
The Gophers won four of the five games against Michigan last season. During the regular season, the Gophers swept the Wolverines at Yost Arena, and the teams split in Minneapolis. The Gophers won 3-2 in the semifinals of the Big Ten tournament.
Just one point separates No. 3 Michigan (12-4 overall, 5-3 Big Ten) and the Gophers (9-7, 5-3) for the top spot in the Big Ten standings. The Wolverines, with two overtime losses to Minnesota's one, have 17 points to 16.