Minnesota has only won once this season when scoring less than four goals. This has been due to young defensemen on the blueline as well as spotty goaltending by Alex Kangas. Fans should expect a big night from the Gophers' top scoring line of senior Jay Barriball, Mike Hoeffel, and freshman Erik Haula.
This line has racked up 41 points on combined for the season. This line has everything needed to play quality hockey. Haula brings finesse and passing with a touch of grittiness to the line. Barriball is a guy who will shoot whenever given the chance and can put the puck away easily. Hoeffel brings size and strength to the line and is another guy who won't hesitate to let his shot fly. This trio should will be key tonight against Michigan State.
The Spartans are by no means a bad team but have definitely benefited from playing inferior opponents such as Alabama Huntsville. Michigan State is 4-6-3 on the year and has struggled against top teams like Notre Dame. Despite the slow start, the Gophers will have to keep their eyes on some solid players for the Spartans.
One such player is junior forward Brett Perlini. Perlini is a big player at 6-foot-2, 200 pounds but is also loaded with talent. Perlini has a team-high 13 points on eight goals and five assists. Perlini uses his combination of size and skill to get to the net and put pucks away. If the Gophers want to start the weekend off with a win they will need to shut down Perlini to stifle the Spartan offensive attack.
The Gophers should be able to score enough goals to sink the Spartans on Friday. Michigan State is giving up an average of 2.85 goals per game which means that Minnesota should be able to find open space on their home ice and score enough to get past the Spartans. Look for a final score of 4-2 with the Gophers taking the first game of the College Hockey Showcase.