Friday, January 27, 2017

Pregame Blog: Xcel Energy Center no "home game" for Gophers + Line Combinations

Xcel Energy Center is 7.5 miles away from Mariucci Arena, but to Don Lucia it could be a world away.

The Gophers coach doesn't consider this weekend's North Star College Cup to be home games.

"Not at all. It's a neutral site venue. We don't play on a small ice sheet like at Xcel Center," Lucia said. "We've been there as often as anyone else the past few years."

Minnesota's record at the home of the Wild, a place where the team won the 2002 NCAA national championship, has been a mixed bag as well, which is not the best news with an opponent in UMD that has defeated Minnesota six straight times.

The Gophers defeated Ohio State at the 2016 Big Ten conference tournament before falling to Michigan. It's the only win in the past six B1G/WCHA games in the building dating back to 2007-2008. The same can be said with the North Star. Minnesota hasn't won since the opening game in 2014 against St. Cloud State, going 1-4-1.

(Minnesota has had more success during NCAA regionals. The past two times the Gophers advanced to the Frozen Four began with a pair of wins in St. Paul.)

Lucia believes any of the four teams can win this weekend in the last tournament being played. It's also the last time the X will host college hockey until the 2018 Frozen Four.

"I was just thinking about that today we're going in there this weekend and I don't know when we'll be back in there," he said. "We had the Final Five to look forward to and North Star Cup at the Xcel Energy Center every year. That's not going to be the case."

With the neutral site nature, the Gophers are technically the road team both games in spite of likely having a crowd advantage due to distance.

University of Minnnesota Golden Gophers Line Combinations

Rem Pitlick (#15) - Justin Kloos (#25) - Tyler Sheehy (#22)
Taylor Cammarata (#13)- Vinni Lettieri (#19) - Leon Bristedt (#18)
Brent Gates Jr. (#10) - Mike Szmatula (#9) - Connor Reilly (#21)
Ryan Norman (#23) - Darian Romanko (#26) - Jack Ramsey (#16)

Jake Bischoff (#28) - Ryan Lindgren (#5)
Steve Johnson (#4) - Jack Sadek (#2)
Ryan Zuhsldorf (#20) - Ryan Collins (#6)

Eric Schierhorn (#37)
Nick Lehr (#34)
Brock Kautz (#1)

The Gophers make one change from last weekend's series at Wisconsin. Connor Reilly moves up to the third line in place of Luke Notermann, who sits after appearing in the past six games. It's a spot the redshirt senior practiced in this week.

University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs Line Combinations

Alex Iafallo (#14) - Dominic Toninato (#19) - Adam Johnson (#7)
Kyle Osterberg (#8) - Jared Thomas (#22) - Joey Anderson (#13)
Riley Tufte (#27) - Avery Peterson (#11) - Karson Kuhlman (#20)
Jade Miller (#26) - Sammy Spurrell (#28) - Billy Exell (#16)

Carson Soucy (#21) - Willie Raskob (#15)
Neal Pionk (#4) - Brendan Kotyk (#10)
Nick Wolff (#5) - Dan Molenaar (#3)

Hunter Miska (#35)
Nick Deery (#37)
Hunter Shepard (#32)

Bulldogs Avery Peterson and Carson Soucy are Wild draft picks (as is Gopher D Jack Sadek for that matter).

As a reminder, I'm covering this weekend's tournament for the St. Paul Pioneer Press. You can follow me on Twitter @gopherstate.

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