Freshman left winger Kyle Rau knows the Gophers are entering a crucial stretch in their schedule.

"We've got like seven weekends left [14 games] or something," he said. "It goes by fast. We've got to win on Friday night [at North Dakota} and come out on Saturday night and get another win and just keep rolling."

Rau said he has not played at the Ralph but ... "I've been up there to watch my older brother [Chad, a former CC forward] play against them. I've been up there three or four times. It is one of the best venues in college hockey. There is no doubt about that. It is going to be a blast."

Rau scored the game-winning goal in the last minute when the Gophers beat North Dakota 3-2 on Nov. 5.

"North Dakota is a lot of fun to play against because they bring their 'A' game against Minnesota every time just like we bring it against them," Rau said. "It's a rivalry."

The Gophers, as they have several times this season, started slow in their last game and paid for it. They lost to Notre Dame 4-3 last Saturday in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game. "We just have to come out ready to go," Rau said."We can't wait around and see what the other team is trying to do. We just got to go.

"Coach [Don Lucia] has been harping on [playing well] the first 10 minutes and we have gone away from that the past couple of games and it has hurt us."

Rau has 12 goals, still the most of any freshman despite missing two games for the World Juniors. "Each game is still an adjustment because the guys or so much bigger and stronger than everyone else that you have played against," Rau said, "but every game you get more and more comfortable."