Saturday, February 25, 2017

Pregame Blog: On Friday's loss, Saturday game times & more Minnesota-Wisconsin notes

Saturday game info:

#19 Wisconsin at #4 Minnesota

Date: February 24, 2017
Time: 7:00 p.m. CT
Place: Mariucci Arena
TV: Fox Sports North Plus (Fox Sports Wisconsin for our friends in Madison)
Stream: BTN2Go/Fox Sports Go (Free for cable subscribers)
Radio: 1500 ESPN
Nate is covering for tonight: St. Paul Pioneer Press

I'm covering both the women's and men's games Saturday so my pregame blog focus is coming out early. I'll update it with Minnesota's lines when the official chart comes out around 5 p.m. Updated with lines, see below.

One thing for certain is that Mike Szmatula will not play. Head coach Don Lucia ruled out the redshirt junior for Saturday's game. The effect of having two of the top three centers in Szmatula and Tommy Novak (out for the season) gone from the lineup meant that Ryan Norman was moved to the position as every other center option besides Rem Pitlick were already used.

"We just need centers. We're down to our last couple guys who could probably play," he said after Friday's 3-2 loss. "We could move Rem back to center, but when you're down a couple centers it obviously has an impact."

UPDATE: No changes to Friday's lines.
If you missed last night's game story (and if you did, go read it twice), the Gophers scored on the opening shift with a magnificent goal by Vinni Lettieri. Nothing else came as easy between missed chances, a powerless power play, pucks hitting the post, Jack Berry making 36 saves and Wisconsin's defense buckling down and blocking 18 third period shot attempts.

5 Leftovers From Friday's Game

1. Minnesota had several chances on odd man rushes and opportunities where Gopher players passed up shots for one last pass and a tap-in goal. The team got better at it during the third period, however, it got to a point where the crowd booed home players in frustration.

1a. Lucia on passing up shots on a 3x1 or 4x2, both of which happened: "You might want to shoot that one."

1b. To the defense of his players, Lucia added, "They're trying to make plays and it's easy to sit up in the stands or behind the box saying what they should have when they have to make a split second decision. We trust them to make those decisions."

2. The Badgers scored two goals on odd man rushes. Over the last 3 series it seems to be the way for teams to beat Eric Schierhorn. Wisconsin didn't get many chances, only putting 18 shots on net and sitting completely back on its lead in the third (one reason why UW is 15-0 when leading after two periods), but the ones its forwards got tested Schierhorn and Minnesota's defense.

3. The Gophers had several chances in the final two minutes with the goalie pulled. Same goes on the power play despite going 0-4 and missing out on a 30 second five-on-three. The closest was Leon Bristedt hit the post and crossbar on a one-timer. His and Rem Pitlick's tap-in hugging the goal line prior to Wisconsin's SHG changed the course of the game.

4. Here's Lettieri, who scored both goals and had 3 or 4 chances saved or go wide, describing being snakebit:

"It happens in the game. That's hockey. It's a game of mistakes. It's a game where sometimes you're unlucky and snakebit like that. You just have to keep putting it to the net. It's unlucky. Usually we'll score on those, but tonight it just wasn't how it went and we'll have to get ready for tomorrow."

5. The second period against Wisconsin has been a difference maker in all three games this year. Minnesota has been outscored 8-1, including 6-0 in the last 2 losses. Neither Lettieri nor Bischoff seemed to have an answer as to why that was the case.

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