The University of Minnesota Golden Gophers look to make their first trip to the brand new Sanford Center this weekend as they end the WCHA regular season against Bemidji State. One of two new teams in the WCHA this season, the Beavers are struggling to adapt and sit tied for tenth with Minnesota State University Mankato two years removed from a Cinderella run to the Frozen Four semifinals. Despite that, Bemidji has been playing better hockey lately and is 3-2-2 in their last seven games.
Minnesota only needs one point to clinch home ice for the first round of the WCHA but can't take the Beavers for granted. Facing the top powerplay in the WCHA at 21.7 percent, the Gophers' underachieving penalty kill needs to continue its improved play over the last month as Bemidji relies on scoring with the man advantage (despite the outstanding powerplay, they are eleventh in the WCHA scoring goals) and their top line has scored sixty percent of the team's goals. Two players in particular to look out for are forwards Jeff George and Matt Read.
Minnesota should be getting back captain Jay Barriball this weekend, which bodes well for the visiting team. Although the top-six, particularly Jacob Cepis and Erik Haula, have played well in his absence (Minnesota has gone 4-0-1 since Barriball went out with a knee injury against Minnesota-Duluth) a returning Barriball gives a lot of confidence to the team as they make a run towards the postseason.
Tonight's game is at 7:30 PM and Saturday's game is at 7:00 PM. Both games are being broadcast on Fox Sports North.