It will be a Lucia family reunion on Tuesday night.
With Notre Dame's football team in the BCS National Championship game, and the NFL Playoffs in full gear, it's important not to forget the huge Tuesday night matchup between #1 ranked Minnesota Gophers and #2 ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Mariucci Arena.
The top-ranked Minnesota men's hockey program hosts a rare midweek game on Tuesday as No. 2/3 Notre Dame comes to Mariucci Arena in the Gophers' final nonconference game of the regular season. Tuesday's contest is slated for a 7 p.m. puck drop and can be seen on FOX Sports North Plus (Doug McLeod and Kevin Gorg will have the call) with radio on 1500 ESPN and Gophersports.com (Wally Shaver, Frank Mazzocco). Minnesota leads the all-time series against the Irish with a 22-13-3 overall record although Notre Dame came out on top in the teams' last meeting, a 4-3 win for the visitors at Mariucci Arena on Jan. 7, 2012. The Gophers are 14-8-2 all-time against Notre Dame in Minneapolis and 7-3-0 in the last ten meetings between the two teams.
Last Time Out
Minnesota captured its 13th Mariucci Classic title in its final action of 2012, topping Air Force 4-0 on Dec. 29 and adding an 8-1 victory over then-No. 1 Boston College the next night. Minnesota's eight goals against the Eagles were a season high for the program and the most since the Gophers' 9-0 win over Sacred Heart on Oct. 7, 2011. Minnesota swept the Mariucci Classic All-Tournament Team with Nick Bjugstad, Kyle Rau, Erik Haula, Jake Parenteau, Nate Schmidt and Adam Wilcox earning honors with Wilcox earning the 2012 Mariucci Classic MVP after tying a tournament record with just one goal against all weekend (and adding a career-high 32 saves against the top-ranked Eagles). Bjugstad also had a record game against the defending national champions, netting a career-high four points (two goals, two assists) for a weekend total of six points. The Mariucci Classic title was Minnesota's first since the 2008-09 season.
Notre Dame Connections
For the second time in three games for the Gophers, a father and son will line up on opposite sides of the ice on Tuesday as Minnesota head coach Don Lucia hosts his son, Mario -- a freshman for the Irish. Don Lucia, a Notre Dame graduate himself, previously coached his oldest son, Tony, with the Gophers. Another connection to the Irish, Nate Condon's oldest brother, Nick, was a senior for Notre Dame last season. Notre Dame has four Minnesotans on its roster.
Gold for USA?
The Gophers had a pair of representatives on the 2013 U.S. World Junior Championships squad that won gold in Ufa, Russia last weekend. Freshman Mike Reilly had a goal and two assists in seven games for Team USA while Gophers assistant Grant Potulny served in the same capacity for the title team. Minnesota has been represented by players and/or staff in every World Junior Championships except 1992 (dating back to the inaugural event in 1977). Notre Dame's Mario Lucia also represented the United States on this year's championship team.
Among the Nation's Best
Minnesota ranks third in the NCAA this season in scoring offense (and second in the WCHA behind Omaha) with an average of 3.63 goals per game. On the other end of the ice, the Gophers rank fourth in the nation, allowing just 1.84 goals against per game -- a figure that leads the WCHA this season. Minnesota, which has also given up a WCHA low 35 goals this season, also leads the nation in scoring margin at 1.79.
Special Teams Success
Minnesota leads the WCHA at both ends of the special teams spectrum this season, ranking first in the league on the penalty kill (57-for-64; .891) and on the power play (22-for-91; .242). Nationally, Minnesota ranks fourth while on the advantage and seventh on the penalty kill, making the Gophers the only team in Division I hockey with a top-ten ranked offense, defense, penalty kill and power play.
Wilcox Stays Hot
No goalie in the WCHA has more wins (12-2-3) and a better winning percentage (.794; second in the nation) than Minnesota freshman Adam Wilcox. The rookie also ranks second in the WCHA with a 1.63 GAA(seventh in the nation, first among rookies) and fourth in the league with a .927 save percentage.
Bjugstad, Wilcox Earn WCHA Honors
Nick Bjugstad and Adam Wilcox each picked up WCHA weekly honors following the Mariucci Classic, Bjugstad for Offensive Player of the Week and Wilcox for Rookie of the Week. Bjugstad, who leads Minnesota with ten goals this season, tallied six points including a career-high four points (two goals, two assists) in Minnesota's 8-1 in over No. 1 Boston College. Wilcox allowed just one goal over the weekend including a career-high 32 saves against the top-ranked Eagles.
Haula Nears Century Mark
Junior Erik Haula leads Minnesota with 26 points (nine goals, 17 assists) and ranks tied for fifth in the WCHA scoring race this season. The forward, who ranks tied for ninth in the NCAA with 1.37 points per game, sits with 99 career points and needs just one more to become the first Gopher to hit 100 points since Jay Barriball did so on Oct. 30, 2009. Haula, who has tallied a point in 14-straight games, is not expected to be in the lineup Tuesday (injury).
Gophers Against Ranked Foes
Tuesday marks Minnesota's eighth game this year against a nationally ranked opponent (6-1-1) and second-straight against a top-five program. The Gophers opened the season with a two-game sweep over No. 16 Michigan State (Oct. 12-13), split a pair of 3-2 league games with No. 13/14 Omaha (Nov. 30-Dec. 1) and picked up three league points at No. 19 Colorado College (Dec. 7-8) before topping No. 1 Boston College 8-1 on Dec. 30.
Rau Makes His Mark
Not only does Kyle Rau now rank tied for second in the nation with four-game winning goals (one off the national lead) after tallying the deciding goal against Boston College, a point by the sophomore has been a good sign for the Gophers all season. Minnesota is 12-0-1 this season when Rau notches a point and 5-0-0 when he records multiple points (16-2-0 career record with multiple points from Rau).
Scoring from the Blue Line
Nate Schmidt ranks second among WCHA defensemen and tied among all national defensemen this season with 16 points (three goals, 13 assists). Schmidt had his streak of six-straight games with an assist snapped against Air Force on Dec. 29 only to come back the following night and snap a 12-game goal drought against the Eagles.
Unusual Second Half
After Minnesota's first half took the team across the country to Alaska Anchorage, Colorado College and Vermont, the Gophers only leave the state of Minnesota one time for the remainder of the regular season -- Minneosta heads to Madision in mid February before moving on to Chicago for the OfficeMax Hockey City Classic two days later.
Tag(s): Other Gopher Sports