Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Previewing the Minnesota Golden Gophers

We made it !! For the fifth time in the last six years, the Boston College Eagles will be heading to the Frozen Four with a chance to win a 5th National Championship. Standing in the way, are the Golden Gophers from Minnesota. The Gophers rolled through the West Regional by smoking BU (!) and then  by putting a beatdown on archrival North Dakota the next night to advance to the Frozen Four. The Eagles last played the Gophers in the 2008 Northeast regional semifinals, a game in which BC won, advancing to the regional finals in Worcester that year. While the Eagles are the favorites heading into the weekend, this Gopher team poses one tough challenge for BC. Minnesota is led by forwards Nick Bjugstad, Kyle Rau, and Erik Haula, all of whom have recorded at least 40 points on the season thus far. While the Gophers are a team that is clearly loaded with talent, they have had some pretty bad losses to teams like Vermont, Northeastern, and Wisconsin (Who had a pretty down year). The weird thing about Minnesota is that they got blown out in the WCHA "Final Five" by UND but were quick to respond a week later with two great wins versus the Terriers and the Sioux. The Gophers definitely seem to be playing their best hockey at the right tome of year (Sounds like a team I know).

Key Gopher Stats 

1. Minnesota has the best offense in the country, averaging 3.67 goals a game this season.

2. The Gophers rank 8th in team defense as they have allowed 2.21 goals a game this season

3. Like many teams BC has faced this year, Minnesota has a great power play as they rank 5th in the country with a 23% conversion rate.

4. Unlike their power play, the Gopher PK hasn't been so strong as they rank 36th in the country in that country with and 81 % kill rate.

5. Gopher goalie Kent Patterson has had a fantastic season so far as he ranks 1st in the country with seven shutouts and is second in minutes played.

Keys for the Eagles 

1. Special Teams. In these types of big games, good special teams always makes the difference. Just look at the Beanpot, Hockey East championship, or last weekend. The team recorded big kills or got big goals when they needed them. Hopefully it continues.

2. Who will win the battles in the trenches ? Getting pucks out of the zone, creating smooth breakouts, and winning battles in the corner will be a pivotal component in who wins this game.

3. Our big line versus their big line. Almeida, Arnold, and Whitney need to be ready to face a really good Gopher first line. Look for that matchup to be the big one as the night goes on. Those guys really need to play well for the Eagles.

Players to Watch 

1. Erik Haula- Haula leads the team in points as he has recorded a 20-28-48 line so far this season.

2. Nick Bjugstad- Bjugstad has recorded the most goals on this Gopher team with 25 so far this season.

3. There are a lot of others. This Gopher team has seven players with at least 30 points and four with at least 40. Thats pretty good.

All Time Series- The Gophers led BC with a 14-11-2 record all time versus BC. Coach York's teams are 3-3-1 all time versus Minnesota. BC is 5-4 all time vs Minnesota in the NCAA tournament.

BC NCAA Notes 

1. This is BC's 23rd appearance in the Frozen Four. BC has won four National Titles.

2. Since 1998, BC has made the most Frozen Fours with 10 appearances since then.

3. BC has a 31-10-1 record so far this season.

4. The Last win vs Minnesota was Coach York's 800th win. Very cool.

Prediction- Can't go against my Eagles. BC 4 UM 3 OT. 

Note- The game is on TV but I will be down in Tampa ! Second Frozen Four for me !! (First as a blogger) 2004 was the first.

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