Thursday, February 17, 2011

Minnesota Sucks Week Preview

Two weeks ago the Badgers felt pretty good about themselves. Home ice in the WCHA playoffs looked like a solid bet, and barring an epic collapse, it looked like an NCAA tournament bid was going to be in the cards.

What a difference a week makes. After being swept by Nebraska-Omaha the Badgers are 3 points away from going on the road in the first round of the WCHA playoffs and are hanging on by a thread for NCAA tournament contention.

From here on out, every weekend needs to be treated like a playoff series. As if Wisconsin didn't need any more motivation, their biggest rival, the Minnesota Gophers are set to roll into town this weekend.

The Badgers seemingly couldn't catch a break last weekend in Omaha. Playing a defensive style of hockey that looked like some past Wisconsin teams UNO took advantage of Wisconsin turnovers and converted on what seemed like every opportunity that they had.

Taking another page out of the Badger playbook, the Mavericks were shot blocking machines last weekend. There was one power play where UNO had to have set a record for blocked shots in one shift.

Not all bad came out of last weekend though. Despite trailing 4-1 in the third period on Saturday night, the Badgers battled back scoring two late goals to make it a game. They out shot the Mavericks 12-4 and looked more like the team that had won 12 out of the last 13 rather than the one that showed up the previous 5 periods.

Junior forward Jordy Murray had a big weekend for the Badgers scoring goals in both games over the weekend. Murray's 15th and 16th goals of the season put him in a tie for the team lead with Craig Smith.

The Gophers roll into Madison after playing their most complete game of the season on Saturday night versus Denver. After an early Denver goal was inexplicably waived off, Minnesota exploded for 7 goals en route to a 7-3 victory.

Unfortunately for Minnesota, it looks like they will be without the services of leading scorer and senior captain Jay Bariball. Lucia said he is not expected to play due to a lower body injury.

You're familiar with the rest of the crew. Mike Hoeffel and Jacob Cepis are always threats and freshman Eric Haula has found his scoring touch after a lengthy drought.

Junior Kent Patterson is the full time man in between the pipes after Alex Kangas was lost for the season when he had hip surgery. Patterson has been arguably the Gophers best player this season and is in serious contention for end of the season award consideration. His .925 save percentage is second to only Wisconsin's Scott Gudmandson in league play.

The Badgers continue to lead the WCHA in team defense and on the penalty kill. While the Wisconsin power play has struggled the past few weeks they came to life in the third period last Saturday night scoring twice. The Gophers have the worst penalty kill in the conference so taking advantage while on the man advantage will be the difference between winning and losing this weekend.

COVERAGE

The Friday night game is being broadcast by the Big Ten Network and the Saturday night game will be on Fox Sports North. Note the Saturday game time is 8 PM not the normal 7.

POLLS

The Badgers dropped from 7 to 12 in the USCHO.com poll and from 7 to 13 in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll. Minnesota is receiving votes in the USCHO.com poll.

INJURIES

Joe Faust hasn't' been heard from since he injured his shoulder a few weeks back but it's unconfirmed if he hasn't played because of the injury or because of his play. Minnesota will be without senior Jay Bariball

PREDICTIONS


Traditionally the Badgers have taken the Friday night game at the Kohl Center and Minnesota usually bounces back on Saturday. The Badgers are pissed about not bringing home any points last weekend and I can assure you that won't happen again.

Friday: Wisconsin 4, Minnesota 2
Saturday: Wisconsin 3, Minnesota 3

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