This week, Soaring to Glory will examine the three non-Boston College teams in the Frozen Four, beginning with the Minnesota Golden Gophers, BC’s semifinal opponent. Should the Eagles win on Thursday, they will face either Ferris State or Union, and wouldn’t you like some advanced scouting on them, just in case?
Minnesota: the land of 10,000 lakes. For a large portion of the year, those lakes are frozen, making it very easy to play hockey on them. Luckily for local athletes, the University of Minnesota’s hockey team has no need for outdoor facilities, as they have been quite good indoors this season. The Golden Gophers arrive in Tampa as the West Regional champions and face the #1 Boston College Eagles at 8pm on Thursday.
Offensively, Minnesota is a very good team. In Boston College’s previous game, they played the top team in scoring in Minnesota-Duluth. The Bulldogs have since been supplanted in that national list — by Minnesota. The Eagles, for the second-consecutive game, will play the team with the most average goals per game in the country. In case you were wondering what the number is for the Golden Gophers, it’s 3.67.
In particular, Minnesota is led by sophomore forward Erik Haula, who has racked up 48 points (20 goals) so far this season and is one of the nation’s top points leaders. He has also been solid on the power play, scoring eight times for the Gophers on the man-advantage.
As a matter of fact, Minnesota is very good at the power play in general, coming in fifth nationally with a 23.24% conversion percentage.
When Boston College faced Minnesota-Duluth, the Bulldogs had all sorts of tremendous statistics in their favor, but they did have one glaring flaw: the penalty kill. Likewise, the other team’s power plays seem to be their Achilles heel, if they have one at all. Granted, their PK is not as far down the list as Minnesota-Duluth’s was, but it is still a rather pedestrian 36th at just 81%. Nevertheless, they are up there with regards to shorthanded goals, having put seven in the net this season, so it can’t all be bad.
The man who will have to quiet Boston College’s offense is Kent Patterson, Minnesota’s senior goalie, who has been primarily responsible for his team’s eighth-ranked defense at just 2.21 goals per game. One big number for Patterson that sticks out is his number of shutouts, which is tied for tops in the nation with seven. Minnesota has also leaned upon him heavily, as he has played the second-most minutes of any player in college hockey so far this season — clearly, this is due to the fact that he has started every single game. If you had a goalie playing that well, why not? Patterson also sports a .911 save percentage, a 2.23 GAA, and 28 victories on the year.
Minnesota is a solid hockey team with good talent. This bunch, like everyone else in the Frozen Four, has all the pieces to win a national championship. The knock on them, however, has been occasionally hitting the wall. From Inside College Hockey:
Watch Minnesota in games in which it doesn’t control the tempo and has a hard time moving the puck; it’s like they’ve never played together before. The Golden Gophers are creative, but not particularly adept at making something out of nothing—the garbage goal off a rebound, for example. And as you may have seen [pre-NCAA Tournament], once you get the Gophers on their collective heels, they really struggle to bounce back. Just like that Range Finder game on “The Price is Right,” once you hit the stop button, it takes a while for the machine to restart.
Boston College is a team quite adept at controlling tempo, but it remains to be seen what will happen on Thursday. All we know is that Minnesota is a worthy opponent.