The Minnesota Gophers hockey team begins at least a three week stretch missing three of their top players this weekend when they host Michigan State at 3M Arena at Mariucci. The Gophers swept the Spartans in East Lansing in January—but that was with Ben Meyers, Mathew Knies, Brock Faber and Jack LaFontaine in the lineup. All four will be gone Friday night when the teams hit the ice and it will be up to who is left to try and find a way to win both games and keep the Gophers squarely in the Big Ten and NCAA Tournament races.
The Gophers currently sit in third place in the Big Ten eight points behind first place Michigan who has 39, and second place Ohio State who has 37. Minnesota has two games in hand over both the Wolverines and Buckeyes. The Gophers currently sit 11th in the Pairwise rankings—in the field but not comfortably. Thats why this series against the worst team in the Big Ten is critical. Sweep and keep pace with the rest of the pack, split or worse and things get much much tougher as we near the end of the season.
Minnesota has gotten good enough play by Justen Close in net to compete, but its the offense in front of his that has struggled at times. Take away Meyers who leads the team in scoring with 26 points and 11 goals, and Knies who is second with 25 points and nine goals, and that is a big gap Minnesota will need to try and make up. Who will step up and increase their scoring output to make up for the loss?
The Spartans come into Minneapolis on a six game losing streak that the Gophers began in early January. Off last weekend, MSU was swept by Ohio State the previous weekend. They have also struggled to score—not scoring more than two goals in each of their four games. If Minnesota can jump out to an early lead, they should be able to cruise away with this series. Keep it close though and weird things can happen.
HOW TO WATCH:
Michigan State Spartans @ #8 Minnesota Gophers
Where: 3M Arena at Mariucci, Minneapolis, MN
When: 7PM Friday; 5 PM Saturday
TV: Bally Sports North
Stream: Bally Sports App/ BTN+
Radio: 1130 AM/103,5FM/I Heart Radio