Badgers Thursday at Minnesota

The Badgers men's hockey team practices Thursday at 3M Arena at Mariucci.

TODD D. MILEWSKI, State Journal

MINNEAPOLIS — Some extra notes before the No. 14 University of Wisconsin men's hockey team plays at No. 7 Minnesota on Friday (7 p.m., FSW, 1310 AM):

1. The Border Battle

By the 283rd and 284th games in the series, there's not much more hype you need to add to the Badgers' all-time series against the Golden Gophers.

But where Mariucci Arena — er, 3M Arena at Mariucci, as it's now officially known — once was a house of horrors for UW, things have been improved here for the Badgers recently.

Eight of the last nine times Minnesota has hosted UW, the Badgers have opened the series with a victory or tie. That's quite a change from the 10 straight losses UW suffered at Mariucci from 2000 to 2004 or the 0-8 record the Badgers posted in their first four series here at the new Mariucci in the mid-1990s.

Last February, UW blocked its way to a 3-2 victory before Minnesota responded with a win by the same score a night later.

Badgers coach Tony Granato this week remembered those games as some of the more entertaining he has been part of in college.

"The games from last year, everybody will remember on how close they were, how intense they were," he said. "We're definitely looking forward to them."

Eight of the 20 players that are expected to be in the Badgers' lineup Friday night will be playing a Border Battle game for the first time. (Goaltender Kyle Hayton, however, has played the Gophers before, making 42 saves to get St. Lawrence a 2-2 tie on Oct. 29, 2016.)

"I know it's a big rivalry, and it'll be a fun atmosphere in Minnesota," freshman defenseman Wyatt Kalynuk said. "But I think we're preparing for it just as we would in any other weekend. Every game's a big game for us, and I think this weekend and the following weekend are going to be huge for us for the remainder of the season."

Minnesota leads the all-time series between the teams 166-93-23.

2. A Minnesotan returns home

Josh Ess was playing for Lakeville South High School last season, about 30 miles south of the Minnesota campus. In this interview, he talked about the feelings of playing in the Border Battle:

3. Looking back at November

The Badgers wrapped up November with a victory over Mercyhurst last Sunday, but UW once again failed to post a winning record in the month.

A 3-3-2 record marked the eighth straight season in which the Badgers have had a .500 or worse winning percentage in November.

They were 3-3 in November 2016, 1-2-1 in 2015, 1-4-1 in 2014, 2-3-1 in 2013, 0-5-2 in 2012, 3-4-1 in 2011 and 2-4-2 in 2010.

The last winning November was in 2009, when UW was 5-3 en route to a run to the national championship game.

4. Go with what works

The Badgers are set to use the same lineup for Friday's game against the Gophers that they did last Sunday against Mercyhurst, only with Kyle Hayton starting in goal.

That leaves Matthew Freytag with center Trent Frederic and right wing Sean Dhooghe, a line that produced 21 of UW's 65 even-strength shot attempts last Sunday.

"It felt like pucks were just getting our way, and it was coming on my stick a lot," said Freytag, who had 10 shot attempts and four shots on goal in his return from a three-game injury absence.

"'Freddy' and Dhooghe, all their effort, too, helps. Them working hard gets the puck to one of us. We had a lot of opportunities, and I think we worked well together."

Besides Freytag, Frederic and Dhooghe, the projected forward lineup has Cameron Hughes centering Seamus Malone and Will Johnson, Tarek Baker between Linus Weissbach and Ryan Wagner, and Jarod Zirbel as pivot for Jason Ford and Jason Dhooghe.

Defensive pairs are the same as they've been all season: Ess with Peter Tischke, Kalynuk with Jake Linhart, and Tyler Inamoto with Tim Davison.

Jack Berry is the backup goalie, while forward Max Zimmer and defenseman Cullen Hurley are also on the trip.

5. Scoring woes at Minnesota

Minnesota didn't score an even-strength goal last weekend in being swept on the road by first-place Notre Dame.

It wasn't for a lack of chances. The Gophers had 28 even-strength shots on goal in a 1-0 loss last Friday and 25 in a 5-2 loss a day later.

Get the latest sports news and scores sent to your email inbox

Both goals in Saturday's game were power-play strikes by Mike Szmatula. For the series, the Gophers outshot the Fighting Irish 86-58.

"Five of the six periods last week, we played really well," Gophers coach Don Lucia told reporters this week. "We probably deserved better, but Notre Dame's a good team. They're veteran in so many ways. The D corps made it hard.

"But we generated a lot of chances. Now, it's just finding a way to get some goals in the back of the net. That's probably been the biggest surprise from an offensive standpoint, how often we've struggled to score goals over the course of the season, 5-on-5."

Minnesota is tied for 31st out of 60 teams nationally in scoring, with an average of 2.75 goals per game. In even strength goals, they're 24th at an even 2.0 per game.

In contrast, UW is ninth overall at 3.47 and fifth at even strength with 2.59.

Linkorama

In The Daily Cardinal, Ethan Levy writes that the Badgers aren't feeling the pressure after surprising losses.

Michael Hughes of the St. Paul Pioneer Press profiles Gophers freshman Casey Mittelstadt.

In the Minnesota Daily, Drew Cove writes about the Gophers' struggling offense.

Fox Sports North broadcaster Doug McLeod previews the series in his blog.

Final thought

3M Arena seems like they're shortchanging things. There have to be at least 15,000 M's in this building.