Tag Archives: Golden Gophers

November 30 – Day 57 – Ain’t no Haulaback girl

Nothing is better than Thursday night in the NHL! Grab your favorite brew and head to the rink to watch your favorite crew!

That may have been forced, but I don’t really care.

Anyways, the NHL has lined up seven games for our viewing pleasure this evening, starting with Los Angeles at Washington at 7 p.m. and Montréal at Detroit (RDS/TSN2) half an hour later. Two more contests (Vancouver at Nashville and Vegas at Minnesota) drop the puck at 8 p.m., while Dallas at Chicago gets underway 30 minutes after. Finally, tonight’s co-nightcaps (Arizona at Calgary [SN360] and Toronto at Edmonton [TVAS]) see the green light at 9 p.m. to close out the night’s – and the month’s – action. All times Eastern.

Like I usually do, let’s highlight a couple of the games that might strike your fancy:

  • Montréal at Detroit: Did someone say Original Six?
  • Vegas at Minnesota: It’ll be a trip down memory lane tonight for F Erik Haula, as he’s returning to the Xcel Energy Center for the first time since being picked by the Golden Knights in the expansion draft.

The Stars-Blackhawks game also merits considerable attention since they’re tied for fourth place in the Central Division, but it’s not being considered for Game of the Day status due to Chicago being featured nine times already this season – as recently as two days ago.

As such, let’s make the trip to St. Paul and see if the Wild can do anything to slow down the best offense in the Western Conference.

 

 

 

 

 

Before we get started, I know what you’re thinking: no, I’m not all that interested in the game between the Maple Leafs and Oilers. I get that C Auston Matthews and C Connor McDavid are squaring off, but I don’t have it in me to make my loyal readers watch the Oil’s horrendous defense. That game will probably end with some ridiculous 7-3 score or something like that.

Instead, let’s focus in on Minnesota’s defense that is only a little bit better!

Ok, more on that in a minute. First, let’s recap the first four years of Haula’s NHL career.

The Finn was a seventh-round selection from the USHL’s Omaha Lancers by the Wild in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, but he didn’t start his NHL rookie season until the 2013-’14 campaign after a year with the Lancers, three seasons at the University of Minnesota and 37 games in the AHL.

Of Haula’s four campaigns with the Wild, his latter two were easily the most successful of his Minnesotan tenure. During the 2015-’16 season, he posted a career-high in points with 14-20-34 totals, and followed that up last campaign with a 15-11-26 effort – the most goals he’s scored in a season since his junior year of college.

Playing between RW Nino Niederreiter and RW Jason Pominville, Haula completed the Wild’s solid third line in what proved to be his final season with the club. Unfortunately, the good work that trio did was not enough to keep Haula on the squad, as General Manager Chuck Fletcher arranged a deal with Vegas GM George McPhee to ensure Haula would be selected during the expansion draft.

While his selection may have been choreographed to ensure Minnesota retained all the pieces it wanted, selecting Haula has only come up spades for the 15-7-1 Golden Knights. Haula has been promoted from lowly third-liner to Vegas’ top center and acclimated very well to his new role, averaging a career-high .68 points-per-game on the season with his 7-6-13 totals.

Of course, it’s hard to struggle with a linemate like W James Neal (12-7-19 totals), especially when they have the luxury of W Reilly Smith (6-13-19), C William Karlsson (13-9-22) and F Jon Marchessault (8-13-21) playing behind them as a brilliant second line. As such, the Pacific Division-leading Knights sport a nasty 3.52 goals-per-game average that trails only the Islanders and Lightning for best in the NHL.

Given the unenviable task of trying to slow down Vegas’ attack is 11-10-3 Minnesota, the worst team in the Central Division and third-worst in the Western Conference.

Hinted at before, the Wild’s biggest struggle this season has been keeping the opposition off the scoreboard. They allow 3.04 goals against-per-game, the (t)11th-worst effort in the NHL. Since I’m struggling to determine if responsibility for this issue falls on G Devan Dubnyk or his defense, I’m led to believe both share in the blame.

Let’s start with Dubnyk, who’s struggling to replicate last season’s .923 season save percentage and 2.25 GAA that earned him the fifth-most votes towards the Vezina Trophy. So far this year, he’s managed a .911 season save percentage and 2.85 GAA, which are 17th- and 14th-worst, respectively, among the 34 goaltenders with at least 10 starts (read: Dubnyk’s been average).

Unfortunately, he’s not getting all that much help from his d-corps. Even with LW Marcus Foligno‘s three hits-per-game, C Mikko Koivu‘s team-leading 18 takeaways and D Jared Spurgeon‘s 2.2 blocks-per-game, Minnesota is allowing a 12th-worst 32.2 shots against-per-game.

It is probably very telling that D Jonas Brodin, the team’s leader in individual goal-differential with a +8, is the only blueliner with a +/- better than +1. Meanwhile, defensemen like Spurgeon and Ryan Suter that have at least 14 points to their name have been neglecting their defensive duties, as neither have positive goal-differentials even though they’re among the Wild’s top-six point earners.

Unless Dubynk stands on his head – which is something he hasn’t done since his 30-for-30 performance against Philadelphia over two weeks ago – it’s hard to believe that the Wild will have much luck slowing down the Golden Knights’ offense.


With two goals in the span of 2:20, the Montréal Canadiens beat the Ottawa Senators 2-1 at the Bell Centre in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

The Senators had a hot start to this game, as Second Star of the Game RW Mark Stone scored an unassisted shorthanded backhanded shot only 4:36 into the contest to quiet the loudest arena in the NHL.

Ottawa’s lead lasted until the 2:56 mark of the second period. That’s when First Star F Jonathan Drouin scored his fifth goal of the season, a penalty shot that pinged off G Mike Condon‘s right goalpost. 2:18 later, F Phillip Danault (F Andrew Shaw and LW Max Pacioretty) set the 2-1 final score with a wrist shot.

This goal was a result of some lightning-fast puck movement. Pacioretty and Shaw were busy behind Condon’s net, scrapping with C Derick Brassard and D Cody Ceci for possession. The moment Shaw had the opportunity, he forced the puck back above the goal line to Danault, who was screaming towards Condon’s right goalpost. Before the goalkeeper could get turned the right way, Danault sent his one-timer into the back of the net.

Though I was unable to watch the game, I’m led to believe that Third Star D Karl Alzner played a major role in keeping the Sens off the scoreboard after Stone’s first period tally. In 21 minutes of ice time, he threw three hits, blocked four shots and tacked on an additional takeaway to help the Habs earn two points.

G Carey Price earned the victory (his third-straight since returning from injury) after saving 27-of-28 shots faced (.964 save percentage), leaving the loss to Condon, who saved 29-of-31 (.935).

Home teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series are on quite the roll, as they’ve won the last five games. Tonight’s victory improves their record to 32-19-6, 15 points better than the roadies’ effort.

NCAA Weekly Match-Up, 10/6/17

Welcome back for another rendition of the NCAA Weekly Match-Up!

This is the first full week of college hockey action, as there are many great games to choose from. As I am scrolling through all the options, I realized I couldn’t possibly pass up on a battle between two Minnesota squads. The State of Hockey will be divided this weekend as Minnesota University takes on Minnesota-Duluth in the Ice Breaker Tournament. It is the only time these two teams will face off this season (unless we have the fortunate opportunity to see them meet up in the NCAA Tournament), so how will these two powerhouse programs fare against one another?

Minnesota Golden Gophers v. Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs

Game Details:

Friday, October 6th

7:37 PM ET

AMSOIL Arena

Preview:

The Minnesota Golden Gophers are hoping to make some noise right out of the gate in the 2017-2018 NCAA season, and winning an Ice Breaker Tournament Trophy wouldn’t be a bad way to start things out. For those uncommon with college hockey, several schools host invitational tournaments such as this. Although they do not have a significant impact on a team’s overall season, it is a privilege to play in these tournaments, as well as a boost in confidence for the few that get to take home some hardware.

MinnesotaMinnesota was tabbed as the pre-season favorites of the Big Ten Hockey Conference. There is a lot of pressure on this team, but they have been known to handle high expectations. A season opening bout with in-state rival Minnesota-Duluth will surely be an early measuring stick. Not to say their whole season will ride on this game, but it’s an opportunity for them to test their team early.

Minnesota will need to replace a top scorer, as Justin Kloos has graduated and moved on to the AHL. He had a stat line of 18-25-43, which will need to be made up by younger forwards. Fortunately, they do return starting goaltender Eric Schierhorn, who appeared in 38 games for a 2.61 goals against average and 0.908 save percentage. If he performs strongly and gets some support from the defensive corps, Minnesota’s end of the ice will be well-cared for tonight and for the rest of the season.

Minnesota-Duluth might well be the most anxious team to take the ice this season. They were left with a bad taste in their mouth when they made a great run in the 2017 NCAA Tournament, only to lose by one goal to Denver, a fellow conference opponent. They hoisted the championship trophy back in 2011, but these are new, fresh players that wanted to bring one home for their team. For the Bulldogs, this season will be all about putting in the hard work and hopefully making it back to take another shot at a title.

Here is the thing about NCAA Hockey; teams at this level face arguably the most adversity, even when compared to professional teams. Imagine your team coming up just short of a championship and then turning the page to the next season and seeing them try it again, but without ten players that helped them get there. Suren there is UMDChamp1turnover in all leagues, but replacing ten players is nearly impossible. This is the reality for Minnesota-Duluth as they head into this season. Seven seniors, including their Captain and team MVP, graduated from the program. These players combined for 60 goals and over 150 points overall. This is critical offense, as well as important leadership, that they will need to replace within. Three players, Neal Pionk, Adam Johnson, and Hunter Miska, departed from the program early as they signed with professional clubs. This is simply an unfortunate reality for NCAA teams. Overall, they lost their leading scorer, four core defensemen, and their starting goaltender in one clean sweep. I’m not counting out Minnesota-Duluth, but that is one massive hill to climb.

It will be interesting to watch both teams tonight, as they face their first serious competition of the season (with no disrespect intended towards Alberta… Wait a minute… did I forget to mention something kind of important… That reminds me – Alberta!) Although it was exhibition play, Minnesota-Duluth lost their game against Alberta by a score of 4-3. If you are someone who likes to compare games against common opponents, Minnesota skated by the same team with a 6-2 result. Again, you have to take exhibition games with a grain of salt, but this could also be an indicator of how this game will go. Who will win this one and advance to the tournament finals? Well, we will find out tonight. Best of luck to all teams involved in the Ice Breaker Tournament!

Players to Watch:

Minnesota – Senior Forward, Leon Bristedt; Freshman Forward, Casey Mittelstadt (Drafted by the Buffalo Sabres); Junior Goalie, Eric Schierhorn

Minnesota-Duluth – Sophomore Forward, Riley Tufte (Drafted by the Dallas Stars); Sophomore Defense, Jarod Hilderman; Sophomore Goalie, Hunter Shepard

NCAA Weekly Match-Up, 10/1/17

October is finally here! The puck has officially dropped on the 2017-18 season!

While it’s time for celebration, it’s also time for people like me to get busy. I’m rolling out a new weekly segment, where I will be choosing one game/series and give you a pre-game preview and post-game write-up(s). If you ever have any suggestions or want to see your team in the spotlight, let us know on Twitter (get ready for the shameless plug.) You can find us at @DTFrozenRiver.

At this point in the early season, there weren’t many games to choose. I could have sided with one of Saturday’s matchups (Boston University defeats Union 4-1; Colgate wins over Niagara 5-1), but I find this Sunday tilt particularly interesting. Without further ado, here is the NCAA Weekly Match-Up:

Wisconsin Badgers v. Michigan Tech Huskies

Let’s start with the Badgers. The Big 10 preseason poll has them coming in at 3rd out of seven teams. In this particular position (if preseason rankings actually mean anything to you), they are a “bubble team.” What that means is if they perform particularly well, they could exceed expectations and be sitting atop the standings at the end of the season. Or, they could live-up to that 3rd place ranking, which will result in an acceptable season, but not a great one. Wisconsin will be a fun team to watch, as tWisconsinhey hope to crash Minnesota’s party. The Gophers are preseason favorites, but I think the Badgers may have something to say about that. Wisconsin will have to replace their leading scorer, Luke Kunin (22-16-38), as well as graduated senior and former Assistant Captain Grant Besse (9-19-28). They will need to see improved play from others, which they believe they will get. If they want to make a good run, they will look to start off on the right foot with this non-conference match-up.

Alright Techies, time to talk about you. I am really interested to see how the Huskies perform this season. What type of product will they be able to put on the ice? In the WCHA pre-season poll, they also received a 3rd place ranking. There problem is that they have a lot more going on behind the scenes in Houghton. Let’s start with the obvious. Mel Pearson was a machine. He helped lead Tech to many successful seasons, culminating in a Broadmoor Trophy. With the retiring of Red Berenson in Michigan (Pearson’s former home as an Assistant Coach), many people feared the worst. Their fears became reality with Pearson accepted the Head Coach position at Michigan. TMichiganTechhe hiring of new Head Coach Joe Shawhan will bring a new era. This new era will also begin with uncertainty on the back end. The goaltenders on their roster include a true freshman, a young transfer, and a junior who has only appeared in five games. With the surprise exit of Angus Redmond, the Huskies must find a way to protect their own net. While they do return many good quality players, graduating seniors made up a large bulk of their scoring last season. I think Michigan Tech will still have a good season, but they will need to overcome a lot of adversity to be back in the NCAA Tournament.

Players to Watch:

Wisconsin – F, Trent Frederic (Sophomore) and G, Jack Berry (Sophomore)

Michigan Tech – F, Joel L’Esperance (Senior) and D, Mark Auk (Senior)

 

Game Details:

Sunday (10/1/17) at 2:00pm

Kohl Center (Madison, WI)

_________________________________________________________________________

Post-Game Wrap-Up:

The Wisconsin Badgers and Michigan Tech Huskies faced off in an early season tilt and what a game it was.

The Cardinal and White got off to a great start, as they put up the only two goals of the first period. At 5:51 of the first period, junior Seamus Malone moved the puck behind the net. Although Tech goalie Patrick Munson was able to fend off the chance, junior forward Will Johnson capitalized on the rebound.

Later in the period, a new face to the Badgers would collect his first collegiate goal. As Michigan Tech’s Jake Jackson went off for a slashing call, Wisconsin’s power-play unit took the ice. Linus Weissbach regained control of the puck after it was blocked by a Husky and sent a wrist shot over the shoulder of Munson. Assists were credited to Johnson Trent Frederic.

Into the second period, Michigan Tech showed they were also capable of using the man advantage. Joel L’Esperance would score his first goal of the young season. Unfortunately for the Black and Gold, the Badgers would regain their two-goal lead shortly after. Senior forward Ryan Wagner entered the zone along the boards and placed a beautiful pass right onto the stick of Weissbach, who was camped near the front of the net. He one-timed the puck behind Munson for his second of the night. Frederic also earned a helper, which earned him his second point as well.

The Huskies would close the gap one more time late in the second period. Another goal on the power-play, scored by Jake Lucchini, put them within one. Gavin Gould and Mark Auk assisted on the play, with Auk earning a multi-point game. Neither team would find the back of the net in the third period, as both Munson and Wisconsin goaltender Kyle Hayton were dialed in.

 

Post-Game Notes:

Players to Watch – Well, we went three for four, which is probably about as good as it gets (we aren’t technically professionals at this). Wisconsin’s Trent Frederic had two assists; Michigan Tech’s Mark Auk also had two assists, while Joel L’Esperance put one point on the scoreboard.

Goalie Match-Up – The goaltending was very well played, regardless of the scoresheet. The Huskies started Patrick Munson, the transfer from the University of Denver. Although his game was not perfect, he showed flashes of brilliance. If he can polish his play, Tech may have found their new number one. Wisconsin countered with Kyle Hayton, a graduate transfer from St. Lawrence. If he continues his strong play that Badger fans witnessed tonight, Jack Berry may be finding himself on the bench more often than not.

First Collegiate Goal (…and Second) – There are many Badgers to keep eyes on this season, but you can surely add Linus Weissbach to the list. The Gothenburg, Sweden native may be a long way from home, but he seems right at home in a Wisconsin uniform. He scored two goals tonight, leading the way to a non-conference victory. Another unique first on the night came from Patrick Munson, who assisted on the first Husky goal (that’s right, goalie making plays). That was his first point as a member of the Black and Gold.

U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game – Regardless of the outcome, both teams were surely proud to partake in such a special game. Unfortunately for the Huskies, they will not have a shot at revenge this season, since this was not a two-game series.

Next Appearances – Wisconsin will take on Ohio State next weekend (10/6 and 10/7), as they open up Big Ten play. Michigan Tech will head to Duluth, Minnesota, as they are participating in the Ice Breaker Tournament. They will face off against Union on Friday and will drop the puck against either Minnesota or Minnesota-Duluth on Saturday.