Series Preview: St. Cloud

The top-ranked Gophers look to stay number-one in the nation as they take on the St. Cloud Huskies this weekend.

DATE: November 18 and 19, 2011
TIME: Friday, 7:30 p.m., Saturday, 7:00 p.m.
SITE: St. Cloud, Minnesota; Minneapolis, Minnesota.
ARENA: Friday: National Hockey Center; Saturday: Mariucci Arena
SERIES: A recent rivalry which started in 1990, the Gophers hold the all time edge by a tally of 48-26-12.
RECORD: Minnesota (10-2-0, 7-1-0 WCHA), St. Cloud (5-5-2, 3-2-1 WCHA)
LAST MEETING: The two instate teams have been battling each the past three seasons. In 2008-2009, the Gophers swept all six games in the series. The Huskies bounced back the next year and swept Minnesota in two games. Last season ended in a series split.

STORYLINE:
Minnesota held on to its number-one ranking despite a loss to the Wisconsin Badgers last week in Madison. The Gophers will look to extend their slim lead over second-ranked Merrimack with a sweep this weekend against the feisty Huskies.

Despite not being ranked, St. Cloud has topped some of the WCHA's most dangerous teams. The Huskies hold victories over Wisconsin and North Dakota but are hurt by losses to Northern Michigan, Alaska-Anchorage, and Mankato. The home-and-home series will give the Huskies a good chance to steal a game from their rival.

BY THE NUMBERS:
1: The Gophers are the number-one ranked team for the second week in a row

300: Last week, Don Lucia earned his 300th victory as the Gophers' head coach.

405: St. Cloud's leading scorer, Ben Hanowski, totaled 405 points in high school playing for Little Falls, a Minnesota record.

SCOUTING THE HUSKIES:
The Gophers should hold the advantage in this series, especially after the injury to the Huskies' Drew LeBlanc who went down two weeks ago against Wisconsin with a leg injury. LeBlanc had already racked up two goals and 10 assists for 12 points on the year. Without a playmaker and leader like LeBlanc on the ice, Minnesota should hold a significant offensive advantage this weekend.

The Huskies have been solid defensively this year, giving up less than three goals per game, good for fourth in the conference. Despite playing solid defense during even-strength situations, St. Cloud has struggled on the penalty kill, with a kill percentage of 78.8. The Huskies will need to keep their cool and stay out of the penalty box if they want to try to stifle the potent Gopher offense.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:
GOPHERS:
-- D Nate Schmidt #29 -- The St. Cloud Cathedral graduate will return to his home city on Friday to take on the Huskies. Schmidt has been electric this year on the blueline, a surprise considering he spent time playing forward last season instead of defense. He has just one goal on the season but his calm control on the powerplay has led to 12 assists, a team high. < p> HUSKIES:
-- F Ben Hanowski #10 -- The junior captain is the Huskies' leading scorer this season with seven goals and six assists for 13 points. Hanowski is a dangerous scorer who is lethal from multiple places on the ice. Look for at least a couple points from Hanowski this weekend.


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