The Gopher Hockey team will host the 26th annual Mariucci Classic this weekend. While this year’s field is not nearly as impressive as some of past seasons, it should be an opportunity for the Gophers to shake off the rust and hopefully get two non-conference wins before restarting the Big Ten season in two weeks against Michigan.
The Gophers will play Mercyhurst in the nightcap Friday while Alabama-Huntsville and UMass match up in the early semi-final. The Gophers have won 13 of the previous 25 tournaments and have a 34-13-3 all time record in the Mariucci Classic. They won eight straight from the 1999-2000 season through the 2006-07 season.
Though UMass has played in the Classic three times, and UAH once, neither team has ever faced Minnesota in tournament play. Minnesota does have a combined 9-0 record all-time against the three teams.
Five teams who have won the Mariucci Classic have won the NCAA Title in the same season including the Gophers (2001-02/ 2002-03), Lake Superior State (1993-94), Boston University (1994-95), and Boston College (2006-07).
The Gophers will be missing freshman defenseman Ryan Lindgren and assistant coach Grant Potulny for the classic as both are with the US World Junior Team competing currently in Canada.
Coming into the weekend, Minnesota is being led by sophomore Tyler Sheehy. He is second in the Big Ten in scoring with 23 points and 11 goals this season and is averaging one point per game for his career as a Gopher thus far. On the blue line, Jake Bischoff has emerged as the teams defensive leader. He has 42 blocked shots on the season, good enough for seventh in the nation. He also brings it on the offensive end of the ice as he is tied for the most points by a defenseman in the Big Ten with 15.
Mercyhurst comes into the Classic with a 7-9-1 record, good enough for fourth place in Atlantic Hockey. The Lakers score an average of 2.8 goals per game and give up 3.2 goals per game. One aspect where Minnesota can really take advantage is on the special teams. Mercyhurst only converts power plays at a 12.6%R ate, and only kills penalties at a 74.1% rate. The Lakers penalty kill is the second worst in the nation ahead of only Michigan State, who the Gophers went 2-8 against in their last series before the holiday break.
Mercyhurst is led in scoring by sophomore Derrick Barach who has 19 points on the season, but only three goals. Junior Jonathan Charbonneau leads the Lakers with ten goals on the season. In net, Mercyhurst is stopped by a tandem of freshman Colin DeAugustine and junior Brandon Wildung of Nassau, Minnesota. Both goalies have played in nine games this season for the Lakers. DeAugustine will most likely get the start against the Gophers after backstopping Mercyhurst to a sweep of Robert Morris before the break.
In the other semifinal, Alabama Huntsville comes in with a 7-11-2 record, good enough for 5th in the WCHA. UAH has been road warriors this season going 6-5-1 on the road and just 1-5-1 at home. Junior Josh Kestner leads the lead with 16 points on the season, while in goal the Chargers feature junior Jordan Uhelsi who had a goals against average of 2.73 and a save percentage of 90.8%.
UMass comes into the Classic with a 4-12-2 record, tied for 8th place in Hockey East. The Minutemen will be looking to regroup from their last series before the break where they were swept by Arizona St. Sophomore Austin Plevy leads the team with 12 points. Freshman goalie Ryan Wischow has played in 14 of the Minutemen’s games and has a 2.78 goals against average and a 90.4% save percentage.
UMass and Alabama Huntsville will face off at 4:00 Friday. Gametimes on Saturday for the Minutemen and Chargers will depend on how Minnesota does as the Gophers will play at 7:00 Saturday win or lose on Friday.
26th Annual Mariucci Classic
Friday: Mercyhurst Lakers vs #11 Minnesota Gophers
Saturday: UMass/UAH vs #11 Minnesota
Where: Mariucci Arena, Minneapolis, MN
When: 7:00 PM
TV: Fox Sports Net +
Radio: 1500 ESPN