The Minnesota Golden Gophers hockey team will open their home slate for the 2019-2020 season this weekend when they host the Niagara Purple Eagles from the Atlantic Hockey Conference. Minnesota opened their season on the road last weekend in Colorado Springs against the Colorado College Tigers and earned a split. They will look to see if they can earn a home sweep and let the fans hear some Battle Hymn this weekend.
Minnesota opened 2019-20 with a 3-2 loss to the Colorado College Tigers last Friday. Minnesot blew 1-0 and 2-1 leads in the third period and took a few stupid penalties that put them in a tough spot. Tyler Nanne and Scott Reedy scored the Gopher goals in Friday while Jack LaFontaine made 28 saves in the loss.
The Gophers rebounded with a nice come from behind 4-3 win on Saturday night. The Tigers jumped out early to a 2-0 lead after the first period, but the Gopher slowly worked their way back into the game. Sampo Ranta and Sammy Walker scored power play goals sandwiched around a CC goal to cut the lead to 3-2 after two periods. It was freshman defenseman Matt Staudacher who would tie the game up for the Gophers just over 2;30 into the third period for his first career goal in the Maroon and Gold. Minnesota would have a tough task in killing off a five-minute major penalty taken by Walker, but they succeeded and then got the game winner just a few minutes later on a gorgeous play by Walker’s linemate in Blake McLaughlin. Jared Moe made 27 saves to earn his first career win as a Gopher and move the team’s record to 1-1.
The Gophers will look to continue to get contributions from their freshman class this weekend. Staudacher scored his first career goal, Moe got his first career win, and three other Gophers, Bryce Brodzinski, Jonny Sorenson and Ben Meyers all picked up at least one assist in their first collegiate action. Minnesota spread the points around last weekend with thirteen of nineteen position players who saw action recording a point.
Minnesota now returns hope to face a Niagara team who has yet to play an actual game this season. The Purple Eagles defeated Ryerson in an exhibition game earlier this month, but will take t the ice for the first time for real this weekend. They will be looking to win their first ever game against Minnesota. The Gophers are 3-0 all time against the Purple Eagles with a 5-2 and 7-1 sweep of Niagara at Mariucci in January of 2006 and a 5-1 win in the 2011 Mariucci Classic.
Niagara was picked to finish second in Atlantic Hockey this season. A year ago they went 17-19-5 and made it one game away from the NCAA tournament falling in the championship game of the Atlantic Hockey Tournament. Niagara also returns a potent sophomore class of scorers. The ten players led the nation in scoring by a freshman class in 2018-19 with 50 goals and 75 assists. Ludwig Stenlund led the Purple Eagles with 42 points (23 G, 19 A) in 41 games. He was named Atlantic Hockey’s Rookie of the Year and was runner-up for the Tim Taylor Award, given to the nation’s top freshman. The Swede tied for the national lead in power play goals (10) as well as shorthanded goals (3). Minnesota will need to account for his presence on the ice this weekend. Senior defenseman Noah Delmas is another the Gophers will need to mark. he was fourth in the country in scoring by a defenseman last year with 40 points (15G, 25A).
In net the Purple eagles return just one goaltender from a year ago, but he saw a majority of the action. Brian Wilson went 15-14-5 with a 2.77 goals against average a year ago and should play both games against the Gophers this weekend.
HOW TO WATCH?
Niagara Purple Eagles @ Minnesota Golden Gophers
Where: 3M at Mariucci Arena, Minneapolis, MN
When: 7 PM Friday and Saturday
TV: Fox Sports North
Stream: Fox Sports Go
Radio: 1130 AM, 103.5 FM, IHeart Radio App