Kent Patterson is not among the WCHA leaders in goals-against average, he is seventh with a 2.55. But Gophers coach Don Lucia is happy with his play and Patterson is listening to what his coach says.
"Michigan Tech proved last weekend anybody in this league can beat anybody," Patterson said, which is what Lucia says. "So you can't take anybody lightly. It's that point in the season where everybody is grinding down and scrapping for wins."
Actually, the Gophers have been rolling over a few teams lately. The U beat Denver 7-3 and Wisconsin 5-2 recently in two one-sided games.
"It is great that we are having scoring," Patterson said. "I try not to think about it that way. I have to make sure I am playing my role and worrying about myself and doing my job.
"The big thing for us is turnovers and we have been doing really well with that lately, eliminating that. Just playing our game. We are playing great."
Patterson, a junior who will start his 17th consecutive game on Friday, has a 11-7-5 record with a .919 save percentage, fourth in the WCHA. Two of his victories came against Michigan Tech up in the UP on Nov. 19 and 20. The Gophers won 6-4 and 4-1. It was the fifth and sixth games in a row of this series in Houghton, Mich.
Now, finally, the Gophers get the Huskies at Mariucci.
"It is always great to play at home no matter who you are playing," Patterson said. "Its our seniors last weekend for sure for [regular-season] home games. It will be a great weekend for them. Hopefully, we get the home ice advantage here."
Patterson's first game againt Tech did not go so well. He relieved Alex Kangas in a high scoring game at Tech on March 6 in the second to last game of the regular season. It was 5-5 at the end of three periods and then the Huskies won 6-5 in overtime.
"I just remember it was a soft goal and I got over it," Patterson said. "It was two points we could have had that problably would have helped us out that season. But the past is the past."
The Gophers swept St. Cloud State 4-2, 3-0 in a first-round WCHA playoff series the next weekend, but lost to UMD 2-1 in Final Five quarterfinal game to finish 17-13-7.
Minnesota did not get one of the 10 at-large bids for the NCAA tournament that year and that loss to was one key reason. They were one of the last teams left out.
Hmm, the Gophers are in a similar position this year. Right now they are out of the NCAA tournament, but are on the doorstep. Even one loss to Tech would hurt their chances quite a bit, two would be crushing. Then winning the Final Five might become their only option to get into hockey's "big dance."
Currently, the Gophers are No. 18 in the PairWise rankings which mimic how the NCAA fills its field. They need to move up at least four places.