Minnesota Preview

#15 University of Minnesota Golden Gophers 0-0-0 (0-0-0)


Massachusetts Minutemen

Tonight UMass will make their third ever appearance in Minnesota’s Mariucci Arena, but it’ll be the first where the Minutemen take on the inhabitant Gophers.  UMass previously played in the “Maroosh” in 2006 at a holiday tournament but avoided the Gophers, instead playing Ferris State and Alabama-Huntsville.  UMass has only played the storied Minnesota program once before, up in Alaska, where they lost 1-0 on a goal in the last minute of play.  Both these teams are in a state of flux and this series should give fans on both sides some sense of expectations for the season.

Like UMass, Minnesota was hit hard by early defections to the pros, with star underclassmen Nick Leddy and Jordan Schroder both signing contracts.  Also like UMass the Gophers are bringing in a sizable freshman class, ten of them in total.  But what differentiates the teams is that while UMass’ class is certainly talented and deep, Minnesota is bringing in pure blue chippers.  Of those ten freshmen, six were taken in the NHL draft.  In fact Minnesota boasts 19 draft picks total.

The Gophers return their third leading scorer from last year in Mike Hoeffel as well as talented center Jacob Cepis.  Also coming back after sitting out most of last year with injury is Jay Barriball who put up 34 points in his last full season.  Joining them will be some very talented forwards led by Nick Bjugstad, the 19th overall draft pick last June. 

The Gophers appear to be most vulnerable on defense, where they return only four players who put in time last year.  The best of these will likely be senior Cade Fairchild.  He’ll also get some help from talented freshmen like Mark Alt and Justin Holl.  In net the Gophers again parallel UMass with a four year starter in the form of Alex Kangas.  Kangas has been unable to match his stellar freshman year where he had a goals against of 1.98 and save percentage of .930, but he has still put up solid seasons since.

UMass’ task to beat the Gophers on their home ice has gotten tougher as the week has gone along with the news of injuries to Eddie Olczyk in the exhibition game, Troy Power injury in practice, and Joel Hanley going home to Canada to mourn his brother.  Then on the eve of the game it’s learned that Stephen Guzzo was hurt while practicing yesterday in Minnesota.  While my sources continue to say that Power may play tonight, that still leaves UMass without two of its better defensive forwards against what could be an explosive offensive team.  Likely for UMass to win they’ll have to fight fire with fire and try to win in a shootout and hope Paul Dainton is in all the right places at the right time.  It’s tough to know if the freshmen, who will flat out have to score early and score often, are ready for such pressure.  But guys like Danny Hobbs and T.J. Syner cannot do it alone.  Guys like Branden Gracel, Mike Pereira, and Conor Sheary have to perform and perform well this weekend or UMass will probably come home with a couple losses to start the season.  And those young guys will have to do so in the face of a loud, raucous crowd thousands of miles away from home.  Welcome to Division I hockey, boys.

Beer The Triangle
Thanks to my friend Andy for pointing out the painfully obvious name I missed for my gameday preview feature.  For those making the trip out to the Twin Cities (lucky bastards) I’m going to have to defer to the expert and suggest a Summit Pale Ale at Stub and Herb’s.  As for me I’ll be getting together with the usual Section U crew to watch the games, throwing back some Cody Brewing Wheelers Oatmeal Brown.



“The University of Massachusetts hockey team arrived in Minnesota Thursday and unpacked some bags of adversity.”  Couldn’t have said it better.

 Minnesota has a chip on their shoulder according to their local paper.

As reported first here on FTT, Troy Power just may suit up tonight.

USCHO has their Hockey East preview where they pick UMass 9th, as well as their UMass team preview.