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Minnesota Hockey: Gophers vs St. Cloud State series preview

The in-state rivalry continues this weekend

Matt Krohn

MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Gophers hockey team (15-5, 10-2) is set to face off against their in-state rival in the St. Cloud State Huskies (14-4) in a home-and-home series on Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 7-8. The Gophers head to St. Cloud for Saturday night’s game before returning home for a Sunday afternoon contest.

The Maroon and Gold are No. 1 in the USA Hockey poll and No. 3 in the USCHO poll while the Huskies are ranked No. 4 in both polls. Last season, the Gophers lost 2-1 at home before they won 4-3 in overtime at St. Cloud in the series.

The Gophers enter the series with four straight wins after sweeping both Michigan State and Wisconsin in December before the break. If you count the exhibition contests, it’s six straight wins. Minnesota took down the U.S. National U-18 team 3-2 on Dec. 29 before they beat Bemidji State 2-1 on New Year’s Eve. The Gophers lead the Big Ten with 30 points — an eight-point cushion over second-place Penn State and 10 points in front of Michigan State in third.

St. Cloud is coming off a 5-2 exhibition win over Manitoba. Both teams head into the series with four 20-point plus scorers. The Huskies’ top performers so far this season are Jami Krannila (10-13-23), defenseman Dylan Anhorn (5-16-21), Zach Okabe (12-9-21) and Grant Cruikshank (12-8-20), who transferred to St. Cloud State from the Gophers. The Huskies also have Minnesota Wild defensive prospect Jack Peart, who has 15 points in 18 games this season.

The Gophers counter with their lethal top line of Matthew Knies (11-11-22), Logan Cooley (10-15-25) and Jimmy Snuggerud (12-15-27). The latter two continued their success at the World Junior Championships, where they combined for 27 points and were the second and third leading scorers in the tournament behind Connor Bedard.

The Maroon and Gold also feature a ton of scoring from the middle of the lineup with strong seasons from Jaxon Nelson, Bryce Brodzinski, Mason Nevers and Rhett Pitlick. The Gophers are led on the blueline by Brock Faber (3-12-15) and Jackson LaCombe (4-16-20).

The Huskies have received strong goaltending from Dominic Basse (7-2, .930 SV%) and Jaxon Castor (7-2, .919). The Gophers counter with Justen Close, who has been excellent between the pipes with a 12-5 record and .918 SV%. Overall, the Gophers have the major edge in the numbers and if they play their game right out of the gate, they should have success. Nonetheless, it should still be an exciting, competitive series this weekend.

Team stats breakdown

Goals per game: Gophers (4.3) — Huskies (3.67)

Shots per game: Gophers (34.2)Huskies (27.94)

Power play: Gophers (26.5%) — Huskies (25.7%)

Penalty kill: Huskies (80.5%) — Gophers (78.4%)

Faceoffs: Gophers (52.4%) — Huskies (52.2%)


#4 St. Cloud State vs #1/3 Minnesota Gophers

Saturday’s game will be played in St. Cloud at 6 p.m. and televised on CBS Sports. Sunday’s game is at 3M Arena At Mariucci at 3 p.m and televised on Bally Sports North. The game will also be on radio on 1130 AM or 103.5 FM.