The #4 ranked Minnesota Golden Gophers hockey team will look to forget the disaster that was last weekend as they move forward with their final non-conference series of the season starting Thursday night against the Arizona State Sun Devils. It will be the third and fourth games between the two teams in the last 19 days as Minnesota will go for the season sweep.
Minnesota looks to regroup after getting swept at home by Notre Dame last weekend 3-2 on Friday and 2-1 on Saturday. The Irish worked their trapping defense perfectly and Minnesota could not seem to break through and get quality puck control. Minnesota struggled offensively all weekend and missing senior forward Scott Reedy for the second and third consecutive games with an unnamed injury was not helpful. Hopefully Reedy will be able to return to the lineup this weekend, but Bob Motzko was not guaranteeing it as late in the week as Wednesday. Minnesota also missed defenseman Matt Staudacher with an injury last weekend and he is expected to miss this weekend’s games as well.
Arizona State will come in shorthanded as well. The Sun Devils series at Wisconsin had to be delayed a day last weekend as Arizona State was dealing with COVID issues. Three of their players, forward Ryan O’Reilly and two of their top four defensemen Jarrod Gourley and Jacob Wilson missed last weekend’s series and will not be back for this weekend. The Sun devils then lost their leading scorer freshman Matthew Kopperrud as well and he will be unavailable for the series against the Gophers. Finally in Sunday’s game former Badger Sean Dhoogie was hit with a nasty elbow by one of his former teammates and is expected to miss this weekend’s series. Kopperrud and Dhoogie scored goals against Minnesota in their first meeting this season, so this should significantly hamper the Sun Devil offense.
Minnesota shut down the Sun Devils 4-1 in the first game of the initial series between the two teams with Jack LaFontaine in net. The Gophers needed to play from behind but picked up a 6-4 win in the series finale with Jared Moe in net. Moe will most likely see at least one game in net this weekend as well for the Gophers as they look to give Jack LaFontaine a bit of a breather as he has struggled a bit more to start 2021 then he did in 2020.
Despite the Gophers recent struggles they still hold an 8 point advantage over Wisconsin for first place in the Big Ten standings halfway through conference play. After this weekend Minnesota will close with six weeks straight of playing conference opponents for the second time this season. All but the Irish have suffered at least one loss to Minnesota and will be ripe for trying to knock the king off the top of the hill. That’s why this weekend is so critical for the Gophers to try and clean up some things and get back to the laser focus they had to start the season. The games won’t count in the conference standings, but they will be important to get Minnesota going the right direction once more.
This weekend is currently the final oddly scheduled weekend for Minnesota the rest of the season. After this Thursday night’s game Minnesota is scheduled to only play on the traditional Friday and Saturday the rest of the way. Many of the times may still be shifted around for TV, but you won’t need to worry about any weird weekday games...barring COVID postponements and rescheduling of course.
HOW TO WATCH:
Arizona State Sun Devils @ #4 Minnesota Golden Gophers
Where: 3M Arena at Mariucci, Minneapolis, MN
When: 7 PM Thursday/ 4PM Friday
TV: Fox Sports North
Radio 1130AM/103.5FM/I Heart Radio App