Despite sweeping a better-than-its-record-indicates North Dakota team over the weekend in the most relevant and entertaining series at Mariucci Arena in recent memory, there are, inevitably, those who—regardless of Minnesota’s 9-1 record—are still asking that question this morning.
Our short answer? Yes.
Minnesota supporters will point out the .900 winning percentage, the nation’s number one team offense (4.80 goals scored per game) and third-ranked team defense (1.60 goals allowed per game), five shutouts in 10 games, and a 28.3% power play conversion rate which ranks fourth in the country.
Detractors will undoubtedly question what many consider to be Minnesota’s soft schedule, pointing primarily to the Gophers’ opening-weekend sweep of Sacred Heart by an outrageous 15-0 overall margin. They will go on to attribute Minnesota’s gaudy offensive numbers solely to that result.
Below is a look at the updated records of the nation’s top seven teams from last week’s USCHO.com poll along with the combined records of their opponents—not including games involving themselves—and the resulting winning percentages.
|Rank||Team||Current Record||Opp. Record||Opp. Win %|
It’s clear to see, Minnesota’s opponents do, in fact, rank fifth in winning percentage with only the nation’s last undefeated team, Merrimack, and Colorado College facing less-challenging schedules among the top seven than the Gophers.
Case closed, right? Not so fast.
Although trailing the likes of Michigan, Western Michigan, and Notre Dame, the numbers are right in line with those of Boston College and Colorado College whose legitimacy so far hasn’t been called into question.
Furthermore, remove the “anomaly” known as the Sacred Heart series—which Minnesota largely isn’t getting credit for anyway— and the numbers remain impressive:
|Adj. Record||Win %||Avg GF||Rk.||Avg. GA||Rk.||Opp. Record||Opp. Win %|
Between Erik Haula, who leads the nation in points with 17 (7-10—17), Nick Bjugstad (8-7—15), freshman phenom Kyle Rau (8-7—15), senior Jake Hansen (3-8—11) and others, the Gophers possess the scoring depth matches up with anyone in the country.
On the back end, outside of the Minnesota-Duluth series in which the Bulldogs fired 50 shots on goal per night, an improving Minnesota defense is allowing less than 22 shots per game while Nate Schmidt (1-11—12) trails only Wisconsin’s Justin Schultz (4-10—14) in scoring among the country’s defensemen.
Lastly, but certainly not least(ly), goaltender Kent Patterson (9-1-0, 1.60 goals against average, .942 saves percentage) leads the nation with five shutouts and ranks in the top five in every significant statistical category.
Brace yourselves, WCHA, the Gophers are legit.
SCSU’s offense could be in trouble
Three points away from reaching the 100-career point mark, St. Cloud State senior Drew LeBlanc suffered a broken bones in his leg during Saturday’s 3-3 tie against Wisconsin.
SCSU’s leading scorer with 12 points through 10 games lost his footing and went crashing into the end boards near the end of the second period. He was taken off on a stretcher and immediately taken to St. Cloud Hospital where he underwent surgery.
The good news is that LeBlanc didn’t suffer any ligament damage, as told to the St. Cloud Times by Bob Motzko, who added, “it was a clean break and there was no joint damage.” That means his season may not be over. It all depends on the rehab process.
Although SCSU scored 10 goals on the weekend, only one of which involved LeBlanc on the scoresheet, this could still hurt the Huskies offense in the long run. He isn’t exactly known for scoring goals but he is a playmaker with 10 of SCSU’s 59 assists this season.
Reiter can stop the puck
After an abysmal start to the season in which Minnesota-Duluth goaltender Kenny Reiter allowed 13 goals in three games, the senior has two shutouts in three games and a .944 save percentage over a six-game stretch.
The most recent evidence of his improvement came Saturday in a 29-save 4-0 shutout at Denver.
Reiter’s thoughts on his recent turnaround, coming Thursday.