Nearly three years have passed since the Gophers men's hockey team skated at Verizon Wireless Center in Mankato.
Only two players on the current roster have played in front of Minnesota State Mankato's home crowd, so Friday's first stop in the home-and-home series is a renewal of the rivalry in a sense. The Mavericks won the last meeting between the two teams last season in the North Star College Cup, but the Gophers won their last meeting in Mankato.
The rivals have faced off only three times in their last 10 games at Verizon Wireless Center with the Mavericks holding a 2-1 record during this stretch. Since those two Minnesota State victories, the Mavericks have matured into one of the top programs in college hockey and the new WCHA.
Now fans want to see the Mavericks at home instead of wondering when the next time the Gophers will be in town, Minnesota State coach Mike Hastings said.
"It's always great when they're here," Hastings said. "When I first got here the question was 'When are the Gophers coming to town?' and I can tell you I think that's changed. Now it's 'When are you playing at home again?' "
Gophers freshman goaltender Eric Schierhorn, an Alaska native, is new to all the in-state rivals, but is quickly learning the magnitude of each matchup.
"I don't know a whole lot. I learned [Wednesday that the Gophers] kind of had a chance to get [the Mavericks] last year when they were the No. 1 team and they didn't really come through," Schierhorn said. "It's an in-state rivalry, so we take a lot of pride in winning these games."
The Gophers left the Twin Cities Thursday and spent the night in Mankato so they could practice at the Verizon Wireless Center on Friday morning.
Read more about how the Gophers and Mavericks hope to continue their rebound efforts after slow starts. Also watch video of Gophers coach Don Lucia and Schierhorn previewing this weekend's series.
• Series Preview: Gophers vs. Minnesota State Mankato
- 7 p.m. Friday at Verizon Wireless Center (Comcast 999 in the Twin Cities, 107.1-FM)
- 7 p.m. Saturday at Mariucci Arena (FSN-Plus, 1500-AM)
Gophers at a glance: Minnesota (3-4) is coming off its first road victory of the season at Notre Dame. They scored three goals in the third period to pull away and salvage a series split. The Gophers offense has taken off since scoring just one goal in the first three games. They’ve scored 15 goals over the past four games led by forwards Hudson Fasching and Leon Bristedt with four apiece. Nine different Gophers have scored at least one goal. Junior defenseman Michael Brodzinski leads the team with seven points (two goals). The Gophers lost to then-No. 1 Minnesota State Mankato in the North Star College Cup last season. The Gophers have won six of the past 10 meetings “We lost to them last year, so I think there’s a lot of guys on our team coming down [to Mankato] that want to get revenge,” Bristedt said. “It’s a rivalry and we’re really pumped for this.”
For more on Minnesota State, read full series preview.
• Gophers' lines
Forwards (left wing, center, right wing)
Connor Reilly, Justin Kloos, Tyler Sheehy
Leon Bristedt, Tommy Novak, Hudson Fasching
Brent Gates Jr., Vinni Lettieri, Taylor Cammarata
Ryan Norman, Darian Romanko, Jack Ramsey
Defensemen (left, right)
Nick Seeler, Ryan Collins
Steve Johnson, Jack Glover
Jake Bischoff, Michael Brodzinski
Eric Schierhorn, Nick Lehr, Ryan Coyne