The Minnesota Golden Gophers hockey team has gotten off to a bit of a rough start this season with a young lineup. Minnesota enters this weekend’s home series with border battle rival Wisconsin with a 4-6-2 record including a 1-3-2-2 record in Big Ten play. Wisconsin hasn’t been much better entering the weekend with a 6-6 overall record, but just a 1-3 record in conference action.
Minnesota will look for a milestone win this weekend as the Gophers have a 99-32-9 record against the Badgers all time on home ice. We talked to Drew Hamm of Bucky’s 5th Quarter about the series this weekend and what to expect to see out of the Badgers.
TDG: As you know Wisconsin and Minnesota both have an influx of young talent on their rosters this season. Cole Caufield is a name I think most hockey fans have heard, but who are some of the other young players making a name for themselves so far this season for the Badgers?
B5Q: The Badgers freshman class has been “as advertised” so far this year. Caufield has been a scoring machine, leading the B1G with nine goals on the season. However, there are two other freshman forwards that have been playing just as well as Caufield. Alex Turcotte, a Los Angeles Kings first-round draft pick, is tied for third in the B1G with six goals and tied for fourth with nine assists. With 15 points, Turcotte is tied with Caufield for second-most points in the conference so far. The third freshman to note is Owen Lindmark. Lindmark, only a fifth-round draft pick by the Florida Panthers, has four goals and six assists this season. Two of his goals have come while shorthanded and unlike Caufield and Turcotte, Lindmark has a positive plus/minus on the year.
TDG: Wisconsin seems to have decided that Daniel Lebedeff has finally won the goaltender job over Jack Berry after a year of back and forth? Any insight as to why he has taken the main stranglehold on the job?
B5Q: Statistically, Lebedeff has been, uh, the worst goalie in the B1G this year. He has the lowest save percentage in the conference and is only .02 away from having the worst GAA. The Finnish netminder has had his moments this year. When the Badgers swept defending national champion Minnesota Duluth earlier this year, it was mainly due to Lebedeff’s wizardry between the pipes. I think Lebedeff out-performed Berry during pre-season and despite some struggles, must be out-performing him still in practice. A lot of Lebedeff’s issues have been compounded due to poor defense in front of him. Despite having the lowest save percentage, Lebedeff does have the most actual saves of any B1G goalie. Lotta shots are leading to a lotta goals. That’s just science.
TDG: Wisconsin got off to a hot start with a huge sweep of UMD in Madison, but then has been up and down since then. What does Wisconsin need to do to play more consistantly?
B5Q: Man, if that ain’t the $64,000 question. With all the young talent on the team, there is still a pretty steep learning curve for the youngsters. It was interesting watching them go on the road against Penn State and just get their doors blown off in the first game but come back and keep things competitive in the second game (still a loss, but way closer). There is also the point to make that these games against the Gophers will be their first games against an unranked opponent since the second game of the season. The first game was against a ranked opponent so, yeah, the schedule has been pretty daunting.
TDG: Has Tony Granato left for the NHL yet? He seems to be rumored to be leaving every single offseason. Do you think he will be in Madison for the long haul or is he just waiting for the right opportunity to head back to the pros?
B5Q: With absolutely no insider information at all, which is how I like all of the writers at B5Q to operate, I think Granato will stick around for at least a few more years. He is starting to recruit at a higher level and if the Badgers can make it back to the NCAA Tournament this year there will be all sorts of momentum around the program. If he misses the Tournament this year? Well, maybe the Flyers job doesn’t look so bad. Believe me though, Tony, it is. It is really bad. I say this as a man who has cheered for the Flyers for over 30 years.
TDG: Predictions for the weekend? Minnesota has been a mixed bag this season so I really don’t have any idea what to expect? How about you?
B5Q: This will be a high scoring, defense optional, fire wagon hockey sort of weekend. I think the Badgers win at least one and maybe scratch out a tie in the other game. But with two young teams like this, who can possibly know what will actually happen.
HOW TO WATCH:
#16 Wisconsin Badgers @ Minnesota Golden Gophers
Where: 3M at Mariucci Arena, Minneapolis, MN
When: 7 PM Friday and Saturday
TV: Fox Sports North (Fri) Fox Sports North + (Sat)
Stream: Fox Sports Go
Radio: 1130 AM/ 103.5 FM/ IHeart Radio App