The No. 19 Badgers head to Minneapolis this weekend to take on the No. 4 Gophers in a battle for the top of the Big Ten.
Minnesota (20-8-2, 11-3-0) currently sits three points ahead of the Badgers (17-10-1, 10-4-0) for the number one spot in the conference and this series has the implications of deciding the Big Ten champion.
After getting their fourth Big Ten sweep of the season over Michigan last weekend, Wisconsin is rolling due in part to their explosive offense.
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The Badgers are netting an impressive 3.8 goals per game, led by freshman Trent Frederic and sophomore captain Luke Kunin. The pair lit it up at home against Michigan last weekend, combining for an impressive eight points, maintaining their positions at one and two atop the team’s points leader board.
Behind the elite offense, the Badgers have been getting excellent results out of their goaltender rotation between freshman Jack Berry and sophomore Matt Jurusik who have combined to go 9-3 in Big Ten play. Berry has given up just 2.76 goals per conference matchup which bests all other Big Ten goalies. Jurusik, however, is right behind him in the third position with 2.97 goals per game conference matchup.
Wisconsin currently ranks ninth in the country in power play percentage (21.6%) and fifth on the penalty kill (87.0%) being the only team to rank in the top nine in both categories.
Minnesota, however, features an elite power play unit of their own ranking number four in the country with a conversion rate of 26.9 percent.
“Their team and their elite skill, if you play well against them five on five and you give those guys an extra chance on the power play and they haven’t done well five on five that’s what a lot of skilled players wait for,” head coach Tony Granato said regarding Minnesota’s special teams.
The Gophers are elite all over the ice scoring an impressive 4.0 goals per game. Sophomore Tyler Sheehy leads Minnesota’s offensive attack and ranks first in the Big Ten with 46 points. Just down the list at number four is his teammate and fellow forward Justin Kloos with 37 points on the year.
Not only is the Big Ten championship on the line, but this battle for the conference comes at the hands of two of the biggest rivals in college hockey.
“This is a game when you sign up for your college hockey and you get a chance to put your jersey on you can’t wait to play the Gophers,” Granato said.
The rivals face off Friday and Saturday night at 7 p.m. in Minneapolis under the lights of Mariucci Arena.