Unbeaten Gophers Surge to #1 Ranking at the Break

Minnesota’s 8-0 Start is Best Since 87-88

Ann Arbor, MI – Jack LaFontaine started his career wearing Maize and Blue and playing home games at Yost Arena.

He leaves Yost with an emotional shutout victory for the visiting team, capping off a perfect 8-0-0 start for the University of Minnesota.

The Gophers (8-0-0 Overall, 8-0-0-0-0-0 B1G) swept the Michigan Wolverines (5-5-0, 3-5-0-0-1-0) to continue their unbeaten streak beginning the year. Minnesota moved up to #1 in the USCHO poll in the process, for the first time since November of 2014. The Gophers have an eight-point lead in the Big Ten regular season race over 2nd-place Wisconsin (16).

The Michigan games were more-of-the-same for the undefeated Gophers, who haven’t trailed in a game all season. Minnesota was without three of its best defensemen in Ryan Johnson, Jackson LaCombe, and Brock Faber due to the World Junior camp, so they saw a healthy dose of the depth defensemen. Carl Fish, Sam Rossini, and Robbie Stucker played big minutes throughout the series for the Gophers.

Michigan was missing five players to the WJ team, including three centers, so they may not have been at their best. However, Minnesota did what they’ve done all year: take control early and don’t let the other team back into the game.

Minnesota took a two-goal lead in the 2nd period on Tuesday behind goals from Sampo Ranta and Bryce Brodzinski, and expanded that lead to 3-0 early in the 3rd on a beautiful goal by Ben Meyers. Michigan scored their only goal of the weekend just 34 seconds after the Meyers goal, but the damage was already done and Jack LaFontaine held strong in net for the Gophers to secure the win.

Wednesday, Minnesota took their two-goal lead early, with Scott Reedy and Sammy Walker scoring in the first period. The Gophers added goals from Jaxon Nelson and Mike Koster in the 2nd, and LaFontaine stood tall against an onslaught of 34 Michigan shots to earn his second shutout of the season, an emotional one against his former team at that.

Thus ends an undefeated first half for the Gophers, who are 8-0 for the first time since the 1987-1988 season (when they made the Frozen Four but finished fourth).

Up next? Who knows. The Big Ten has not yet released any schedule information for the second half of the season. As soon as they do, you can find that information here on GopherPuckLive.com.

Notes:

Jack LaFontaine’s 1.00 GAA and 0.965 Sv% are both fourth nationally. His standing should improve as the goalies ahead of him play more games.

Through the first half, Scott Reedy (6G-3A) and Ben Meyers (4G-5A) lead the Gophers in points. Reedy is tied for the national lead in goals, and second in PPG with three.

The Gophers’ special teams are shining in the first half. The penalty kill is a perfect 17-for-17, and the powerplay sits T-8 nationally at 29%.

Minnesota is 13th in the country in total offense, scoring 3.38 goals per game. The Gopher defense is 1st nationally, having allowed just 8 total goals over their eight games. Only 10 teams have allowed fewer goals than Minnesota has, and they all have done so in 1, 2, or 3 total games.

Bob Motzko’s Gophers are also super disciplined. Minnesota is T-2nd in the nation for fewest penalty minutes taken per game (5.0).

About Chris Eckes 105 Articles
Gopher Hockey fan since birth. Avid golfer. Fantasy Sports enthusiast.

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