Minnesota is playing its first road series of the year, beginning Friday at 5:30 p.m. CT and ending action Saturday at 4:00 p.m. CT at Value City Arena in Columbus, Ohio. Game one is scheduled for Big Ten Network coverage, while Saturday’s finals will only be available via stream on B1G+, while both games can be heard live on Gopher Radio Network 103.5 FM/AM 1130.
Minnesota moved up to the top spot in both USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine and DCU/USCHO.com national polls last week and stayed on top after splitting from North Dakota. It’s the first time Minnesota has ranked highest in the nation since Jan. 11, 2021, when it started the season 11-1 overall.
For the third straight series, Maroon and Gold will face off against a team ranked 11th or higher after a home-and-home split against No. 5 Minnesota State and a home-ice split against No. 7 North Dakota . Minnesota now faces a battle with No. 11 Ohio State, a team that has won all four home games and is already 2-0 in B1G action with a win over Wisconsin Oct. 7-8.
FEEL AT HOME
Minnesota won its first four home games this season before going into overtime on Oct. 22 and has excelled on home ice at the 3M Arena in Mariucci, winning nine of its last 11 games since January. The Maroon and Gold outplayed their opponents at this stretch by a 47-21 margin, including three shutouts.
HAT OFF YOU
He became a freshman thanks to his first four collegiate goals against No. 5 Minnesota State, three of which came on the same night Jimmy Snuggerud was named B1G First Star of the Week on October 10. He stormed onto the stage on Friday and scored the NCAA’s first hat-trick of the year, including the game-winner, and added the first goal on the road on Saturday.
STORY WITH THE BUCKEYES
The Gophers hold an all-time 38-9-5 record when facing Ohio State, their best win percentage against any Big Ten opponent. Minnesota is also 13-5-2 against the Buckeyes, including two wins last season, and is undefeated in their last five games at Columbus, Ohio. Rhett Pitlick scored a four-point weekend (two goals, two assists) at OSU a year ago and was named second star of the week with B1G.
POWER PLAY EFFICIENCY
Six games into the season, Maroon and Gold have had six power play goals, burying two each in their first two contests before adding one for a 25 percent conversion rate in the series opener with Minnesota State and North Dakota. The game-winning goals in Minnesota’s first two wins both came on man advantage from the seniors’ sticks Jaxon Nelson and Bryce Brodzinski.
Senior Just close made a 16-saver shutout in his first game of the year against Lindenwood and added national wins over No. 5 Minnesota State (October 7) and No. 7 North Dakota (October 21). After having one of the best seasons in Minnesota history a year ago with top-five marks for goals against average and a save rate in one-season history, Close has 1.58 goals against average in five games this year average and achieved a saving rate of 0.924.
BREACH FROM THE BLUE LINE
Knowing they could rely on their defensive corps to lead the team, that notion was made even clearer on October 2 when the blue line accounted for eight of the team’s 16 points in a 6-4 win over Lindenwood. Rock Faber and Mike Koester combined for five points and Ryan Chesley, Jackson LaCombe and Luke Mittelstadt each added an assist. The veteran-laden group scored two of the last three goals for Maroon and Gold, secured the win from behind and has now accumulated 25 points in six games, including a team-best seven from LaCombe.
A pair of former Gophers recently achieved impressive milestones in the National Hockey League when Phil Kessel played in his 990th straight career on October 25 and set the Iron Man record for most games without missing a contest. The week before, Alex Goligoski entered the Xcel Energy Center on October 20 for his 1,000. Career NHL game the ice, along with five former Minnesota athletes to hit the bull’s eye. The two have won three Stanley Cups together in 33 NHL seasons, all with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Nicknamed the State of Hockey, Minnesota is known for its strong history of players skating on local ice rinks and backyard ponds. This has fed a rich pipeline of talent to colleges across the country, most notably the University of Minnesota. The Gophers’ roster includes a collection of 26 student-athletes, 20 of whom were born and raised within state lines. Even more impressive is the fact that 16 of the Minnesotans on the team are from within 40 miles of campus.