Friday, February 22, 2008

Weekend Series Prep: Wisconsin at Minnesota

Series: Minnesota leads the all-time series 148-79-16 in a series that began in 1922.
Drop of the puck: Friday: 7:07 p.m; Saturday: 7:07 p.m. central time
Television: Friday night on Big Ten Network; Saturday is live on FSN North.

Announcers: Frank Mazzocco and Doug Woog
PTFG Prediction: Minnesota has had two weeks to rest and prepare for the homestretch. I have to believe they at least split with a Badger team that is no better than middle of the pack.


Pairwise: Wisconsin 12, Minnesota 17 Wisconsin 10, Minnesota (receiving votes)
USA Today: Wisconsin 12, Minnesota not ranked
Krach: Wisconsin 8, Minnesota 14


Star Tribune: Ben Gordon tells Roman Augustoviz the Gophers aren't done.

Pioneer Press: Bruce Brothers says it's do-or-die time.

Minnesota Daily: Brian Deutsch looks for positives in the sub-.500 Gophers.

Weekend outlook:

Gophers at a glance: Six games to change a season, and a seeding. Minnesota, who enters the weekend with a 6-11-5 record and a ninth-place position, will square off with the rival Badgers, travel to last-place anchorage and host Duluth during the final three weekends.

At stake, a better position for the first-round playoffs as it appears only six wins would move the Gophers up into the top five. Minnesota has 17 points currently - seven behind fourth-place Wisconsin and Mankato.

Minnesota’s ninth place standing in the WCHA is a very unusual spot for the Gophers, who are the two-time defending regular season league champions and have finished fourth or better each of the past eight seasons. Minnesota has not finished lower than sixth since a seventh place finish in 1976-77. The only time in 56 years of league play that Minnesota finished ninth or lower was a 10th place standing in 1971-72.

Four points separates Minnesota and Minnesota-Duluth for sixth place.

While the Gophers offense has been anemic, the goaltending continues to be top notch. Since the holiday break, freshman Alex Kangas has made 11 starts and owns a 1.75 goals against average and .935 save percentage, though he only has a 2-4-5 record. For the season, Kangas ranks 13th nationally with a 2.14 goals against average and 12th with a .923 save percentage.

Did you know? Despite its below .500 record, Minnesota has rarely been behind in any of its games. The Gophers have scored first in 23 of their 32 contests and trailed for just 386 of a possible 1,961 minutes (19.7 percent of the time). Minnesota never trailed in any of its three overtime losses or five of its ties.

Wisconsin at a glance: The Badgers are coming a weekend split with Mankato - the hottest team in the WCHA. Wisconsin is 6-2-3 over its last 11 games and, like Minnesota, the Badgers have been in several tight games recently with four overtime games among their last nine contests.

Freshman forward Kyle Turris, who was the preseason WCHA Rookie of the Year, has compiled 11 goals and 18 assists for a team-high 29 points. Ben Street has a team-best 12 goals while adding 15 assists for 27 points. Shane Connelly has played all but three games in goal and owns a 2.32 goals against average and .917 save percentage.

Did you know? Goals have been at a premium in recent Minnesota-Wisconsin clashes. The past nine meetings have featured a total of 33 goals scored between the two teams, including two shutouts. Last year, just 17 goals were scored in the five meetings and a total of eight goals were scored in the first matchups this year. Neither team has scored five goals in a game in the series since Minnesota posted a 5-3 win on Feb. 5, 2005.