There is something to be said about playing in front of your hometown fans. For years University of Minnesota Golden Gopher players have talked about the advantage of playing in front of the great fans at Mariucci Arena and how much it means to their success. Some players on the team even have the luxury of getting home ice advantage even on a road trip.
For Minnesota junior defenseman Nate Schmidt, that feeling will come this weekend as he and the Gophers head to the National Hockey Center in St. Cloud, Minn. for a two game series versus the No. 1 team in the WCHA conference standings, the St. Cloud State University Huskies.
Schmidt, a St. Cloud native, will bring his nation leading 25-points by a defenseman back home to play in front of family and friends. He may also be playing in front of some local fans with some angst towards Schmidt for not choosing to stay in town to play for the Huskies.
Huskie fans need not worry about the talented defensive star as their team is playing quite well right now as they sit on top of arguably the toughest conference in the country.
Led by a mix of talent young and old, the Huskies of SCSU are unbeaten in their last six games and have flown up the national rankings over the last few weeks and currently sit ranked No. 8 in the USCHO.com Division-I polls.
The No. 1 ranked Gophers trail SCSU by five points in the conference standings, but have also played two fewer contests on the season. A strong showing by either team will put them in the prime position to bring home the McNaughton Cup at the end of the year.
Friday’s series opener is scheduled to start at 7:35 p.m. CT and will air on Fox Sports North Plus as well as on AM-1500 ESPN on the radio dial in the Twin Cities.
Saturday’s series finale can be found on the same two broadcast entities, but will face-off at 7:05 p.m. CT.
Coming off a bye weekend, the Gophers will need to shake the rust off immediately if they want a chance at a three or four point series. The best way to do this is play the type of defense that we have been accustom to seeing from Schmidt and his teammates.
Hopefully, the junior defender can provide some home cooking and put Minnesota on top after what will surely be an exciting weekend.
Prediction: Friday – SCSU 4, Minnesota 2. Saturday – Gophers 3, Huskies 2. The split keeps both teams in the hunt for a great finish to the regular season now just a month away.