Minnesota will try and snap a three-game losing streak this weekend when they head to Madison to open the Big Ten season against the rival Wisconsin Badgers. Minnesota will look to duplicate their last trip to Madison in February where they came home with a sweep of Wisconsin by 4-2 and 7-1 scores.
The Gophers will need to try and get their offense back on track after three lackluster games in a row. Minnesota has scored just one goal in each of their last three games. Through five regular season games, no Gopher has more than two goals on the season. Clayton Phillips five assists on the year has him leading the team in points heading into the weekend. If Minnesota can’t find the back of the net against a Badger squad that last looked lackluster defensively at times this weekend, it could be a long one. Minnesota had had scoring success in Madison in the recent past scoring seven goals in one game a season ago and nine two years ago. Tyler Sheehy leads all Gopher scorers with 14 points in 12 games in his career against the Badgers.
The Gophers will need to continue to get decent goaltending. Mat Robson took the loss in the Las Vegas game, but played well. He gave up four goals before getting pulled in Friday’s night’s loss to Minnesota State. He was replaced by Eric Schierhorn who gave up one goal on Friday and then held the Mavericks to just two goals on Saturday, but got no help from his offense in a 2-1 loss. It may be a mystery who Bob Motzko will start for the Gophers in net this weekend. Both goalies have had success in Madison with Robson winning both games of the Gophers sweep last February and Schierhorn going 3-1 the previous two seasons.
Wisconsin comes into the series with a 4-4 record. They swept Boston College in Madison to open the season before winning at St. Lawrence and losing at Clarkson. They split a series against Michigan Tech in Madison and then were swept by North Dakota in Grand Forks last weekend. The Badgers have had some defensive weaknesses and are giving up 3.3 goals per game. Wisconsin has been spliting time between Jack Berry and Daniel Lebedeff in goal. Berry has started five games and has not been great. He has 4.19 goals against average and only a .860 save percentage. Meanwhile Lebedeff has started three games and come in for Berry in another. He has a much better 2.02 goals against average and a .922 save percentage. He most likely will get the Friday night start against the Gophers.
Offensively the Badgers have been led by a trio of players with nine points. Wyatt Kalynuk, Tarek Baker and Seamus Malone each have at least three goals with Kalynuk having four. Sean Dhoogie has five to lead the Badgers on the season.
Special teams could be key this weekend. Wisconsin has been awful on the penalty kill giving up a goal over 27% of the time. The Gophers are just 4-22 on the season on the power play this season, and will need to take advantage. On the other side Minnesota has been fairly good on the penalty kill this season allowing only five power play goals in 29 opportunities. The Badgers score on 23% of their power plays this season, so the Gophers will need to be sharp to keep Wisconsin off of the scoreboard.
Minnesota has a great opportunity to get some road Big Ten points this weekend if they play up to their potential. If they can after three lackluster games in a row will be the major question. But if the Gophers can’t get up for a weekend in Madison, then something is definitely amiss.
HOW TO WATCH:
#14/16 Minnesota Golden Gophers at #20 Wisconsin Badgers
When: Friday, Saturday 7PM
Where: Kohl Center, Madison, Wisconsin
TV: Friday-Fox Sports Wisconsin (FSN Tape Delay Noon Sat), Saturday- Fox Sports North/Fox Sports Wisconsin
Radio: 1130 AM, 103.5 FM, IHeart Radio App