The ABC's of the U versus UND

The Gophers men's hockey team takes on rival North Dakota in Grand Forks Friday and Saturday. Minnesota enters the series 2-4-0 and 1-3 in the WCHA, while UND is 4-1 and playing its first conference games of the season. Here is an alphabetical look at the weekend matchup.

A – is for all-time, as in the Golden Gophers lead the all-time series against UND 129-110-1. In the last 10 meetings, the Gophers are 8-2 against the Sioux.

B – is for Briggs, as in freshman goalie Kellen Briggs, who started both games against Denver last weekend, stopping 50 of 56 DU shots, going 1-1. Briggs is 2-2 on the season with a 3.01 GAA and .888 saves percentage. Briggs will start Friday.

C – is for Catch-up, which is what the Gophers have been doing this season. The Gophers have given up the first goal in four of this season's first six games, and are 1-3 in those games.

D – is for the Draft, as in 14 current Golden Gophers have been selected in the NHL entry draft

E – is for Englestad Arena, the 11,406 facility will be packed for the two-game series. North Dakota fans want to see their team beat the Gophers more than any other WCHA team.

F – is for freshman, as in the Gophers newcomers are slowly but surely getting acclimated to college hockey. Along with Briggs, newcomers Ryan Potulny, Mike Vannelli, Danny Irmen and Jake Taylor are being asked to step in and contribute right away, which could be a factor in the Gophers' slow star.

G – is for goalie, as in the Sioux have used three goalies this season: Jordan Parise (3-0, 3.04 GAA); Jake Brandt (1-1, 1.08 GAA); and Nate Ziegelmann (0-0, 5.36 GAA). Brandt is expected to start Friday.

H – is for home ice advantage. The Sioux are 60-50-7 all-time at home against the Gophers. However, Minnesota has not lost on the road to UND since a 7-5 defeat on Nov. 10, 2000, a span of three games.

I – is for Irmen, as in Danny Irmen, who will be extra juiced for tonight's game. Irmen hails from Fargo, North Dakota and is playing collegiately in his home state for the first time in his career. Other North Dakota natives on the Gophers team include Grant and Ryan Potulny, the brother's hail from Grand Forks.

J – is for junior Brandon Bochenski, the Blaine, Minn., native who leads the Sioux in scoring with nine points – six goals and three assists. Last weekend Bochenski became the 72nd player in Fighting Sioux history to join UND's "Century Club" of 100 or more career points. Bochenski's five-point weekend against Yale pushed him to 103 career points, tying him for 65th on UND's all-time scoring list The Sioux lead the WCHA in scoring with 5.6 goals per game.

K – is for Keith Ballard, the Gophers captain will not play again this weekend, because of injury. Also out is Chris Harrington, another top defenseman. Look for Andy Sertich and Brett MacKinnon to fill in in their absence.

L – is for Lucia, as in Gophers coach Don Lucia, who has a 19-20-5 record in his career against UND, including his stints as head coach at Alaska-Fairbanks, Colorado College and the U of M.

M – is Murray, as in forward Brady Murray, who was named WCHA Rookie of the Week following his breakthrough performance against Yale Oct. 31-Nov. 1. Murray racked up a goal and six assists on the weekend while putting up a +8 rating over the two games. Murray is the third UND player to be named WCHA Rookie of the Week this season, joining Jordan Parise (Oct. 7) and Drew Stafford (Oct. 20).

N - is for North Dakota. The Sioux are ranked No. 2 in the nation in the latest USCHO poll, while the Gophers are ranked No. 11.

O – is for overtime. The Gophers have lost as many overtime games this season (4-3 at UMD on Oct. 24) than they have all of the last two seasons combined.

P – is for Parise, the North Dakota whiz kid has three goals and four assists this season.

Q – is for the questions still remain for Minnesota – is this slow start a sign of things to come or just an aberration? We'll find out this weekend, a weekend that could make or break the Gophers.

R – is for Riddle, as in Troy. It's no joke that his ability to provide offense will be a key to the series. Riddle is tied for second on the team in scoring with five points (two goals, three assists). Matt Koalska has one goal and four assists, while Thomas Vanek leads the team with seven points – four goals, three assists.

S – is for Sertich, as in Andy Sertich, the Sophomore from Coleraine, Minnesota has played well after a slow start as a freshman. His role is even greater this week with injuries to Gophers defenseman. Sertich played well last weekend against DU, even earning an assist.

T – is for televison, as in both games will be broadcast on Fox Sports Net, starting at 7:05 p.m. both nights. KCCO-AM 950 will broadcast the game via radio.

U – is for Unscored upon, as in the last time the Gophers shut out UND was Dec. 12 1993, in a 3-0 win, a span of 42 games. The last time UND shutout the U was Jan. 21, 2000 in a 1-0 win, a span of 14 games.

V – is for Vanek, The Sophomore sensation is a marked target by every team, but there is a reason the Buffalo Sabres made him a No. 1 pick, and so far Vanek isn't showing any signs of a sophomore slump.

W – is for win, as in the Gophers desperately need two wins this weekend.

X – is for x-factor, as in the key to this game just might be Minnesota's ability to score first, quiet the crowd and not have to play from behind.

Y – is for youth, as in can the Gophers youthful players pick it up to the point where the Gophers are competitive not only in the WCHA, but at the national level? This weekend, on the road, in a hostile environment, could answer that.

Z – is for zero, as in the number of goals UND gave up in its win Saturday over Yale. The high-flying Sioux outscored Yale 18-4.

Matt Krumrie covers Gophers hockey for GoldenSports.Net. He can be reached at Gophershockeyinsider@yahoo.com

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