Let me take you back five weeks. The season was just beginning, and College Hockey Inc. decided to grow the sport by forcing the #1 ranked team in the pre-season to play at 1 PM on a Friday afternoon in an empty arena (I'm not bitter). Thankfully they broadcast the game on the Notre Dame version of AggieVision; you know, without sound or a scoreboard.
The Gophers jumped out to a quick lead and held on for a 4-3 win. The Bulldogs played well despite losing, especially in the last two periods. They carried that play through the next game of the tournament and blanked Notre Dame 3-0 in front of the Irish's home crowd.
Split weekends have been the story for Duluth this year; they've split every weekend except for the last one, when the stormed into St. Cloud and swept the Huskies 3-2 (OT) and 3-1. Duluth is for real.
The Bulldogs are road warriors, and their schedule is brutal through the first half of the season. To start this year, they'll play seven weekends against ranked opponents. Half of those games are on the road, so their 6-4 record is nothing to shake a stick at.
They've got some high-end scoring talent, led by sophomores Dominic Toninato, Alex Iafallo, and Kyle Osterberg. They also play decent defense, checking in at 21st in the nation in goals against.
The Gophers enter the weekend fresh off a dominant sweep of Notre Dame. The Gophers smacked the Irish 5-0 and 4-2. The weekend represents the best hockey Minnesota has played while amassing their 7-1 record. Justin Kloos has been deadly efficient on the power play and also at even strength. Taylor Cammarata already has ten assists in eight games,
Oh, and Kyle Rau still leads all scorers with 12 points. Mike Reilly is tied (with Cammarata) for second on the team with 11 points, and Justin Kloos is third with 10. Hudson Fasching has seven points so far.
This weekend will come down to who plays better defense. I'm sure that both teams will score goals this weekend, I don't think either team will see their offense shut down completely, so the goal of the weekend will be to bend but not break. I'm guessing both of these games are one-goal affairs, maybe someone will pick up an empty net goal to seal a game.
If both these games were to be played at Mariucci, I would have a hard time calling for a Gophers' sweep. Since this is another home-and-home series, a sweep is a tall order. I'm guessing this series ends up in a split, with the Gophers winning 4-3 Friday night at home and falling to the Bulldogs 3-2 in Duluth on Saturday.