Gopher Hockey vs. SCSU Preview

After getting swept last weekend, the Gophers look to rebound against in-state rival, St. Cloud State. The Gophers enter the game 2-2 on the season with no conference wins. The Huskies come to Minneapolis with a 1-2-1 record. This series will mark the opening of the WCHA season for the Huskies and should give the Gophers a chance to get back on track after a tough two games last weekend.

Uncharacteristically, this year's Gopher team has seen an abundance of offense but has also been terrible on the defensive end. Minnesota has given up and scored an average of four goals per game. The offensive trend is encouraging due to the lack of scoring last season.

That being said, the lack of stopping power on the blue line is very troubling. Much of the problem can be attributed to a bevy of freshmen defensemen including Nate Schmidt, Mark Alt, and Justin Holl. They are not bad players by any means but sometimes have lapses where they don't tie up an open opponent.

Upperclassmen have also been struggling on defense. Cade Fairchild and Kevin Wehrs have both gotten caught at the other end, giving up an odd-man rush. If the Gophers want to come away with a sweep this weekend they will need to stop the Huskies from getting any odd-man rushes down the ice. Players like Garrett Roe and Ben Hanowski will have no problem putting the puck away if they are given an open shot.

While the Gophers have been struggling to stop opponents, they have been putting the puck away when they get the chance. Jay Barriball has been off to great start this year, tallying five goals and two assists in just four games. Barriball has shown no hesitation in letting a shot rip from the slot. Putting the puck on the net and letting good things happen has been key for Barriball as well as the rest of the team.

His linemates, Erik Haula and Mike Hoeffel have been big contributors too, totaling six points and five points respectively. This top line is major component in Minnesota's powerplay this season, accounting for five out of the team's six powerplay goals. The experience and skill of Barriball and Hoeffel combined with the talent and hustle of Haula create a deadly combination. Expect this line to continue their early dominance against the Huskies.

The game will be a tough, gritty affair as always. The Gophers should be able to capitalize on the some penalties by the Huskies to take Friday's came 3-2. On Sunday, the Huskies will come up with fire but the Gophers will counter late to tie the game that will end in a 4-4 tie.

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