Hawks or Gophers?

What the stats say

Cole Johnson, Staff Writer

This Friday and Saturday will be the first time since 2012 that the Minnesota Golden Gophers hockey team makes its way to the Ralph Engelstad Arena. It looks to be a matchup of two young talented hockey teams.

Coming into the games, the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks are ranked fourth at a record of 3-0-1, and the Gophers are 2-2 and ranked eighth. This will be the Fighting Hawks first regular season matchup against a ranked opponent this year.

The Gophers are entering this weekend after a split series at home against eleventh ranked Penn State, their other loss came in overtime at the hands of ninth ranked Minnesota Duluth at the beginning of the season.

The roster for the Fighting Hawks is very different this year. The team has returned 18 players from last year; there are eight newcomers, seven of them being freshmen. This year’s team returns four of the top seven point scorers, including the top scorer from last year in both points and goals, Shane Gersich. The Fighting Hawks will be looking to fill the big hole that Tyson Jost, Tucker Poolman and Brock Boeser left when they left for the NHL this year.

The Gophers roster is also very different. The team returned 21 players from the previous year. There are seven newcomers, six of whom are freshmen. The Gophers are very similar to the Hawks in that they will also be returning four of the top seven point scorers, with their top point and goal scorer in Tyler Sheehy returning.

A major matchup to look out for this weekend will be Gophers freshman Casey Mittelstadt against Fighting Hawks own freshman Grant Mismash. Both players were drafted in the 2017 NHL entry draft; Mittelstadt was picked eighth overall by the Buffalo Sabres and Mismash went in the second round, 61st overall by the Nashville Predators. Mismash is coming off of NCHC Rookie of the Week honors after scoring two points, a goal and an assist against St. Lawrence. Mittelstadt is a standout freshmen. Mittelstadt was named Minnesota’s 2017 Mr. Hockey, 2017 USA Today All-USA Athlete of the Year, 2016 and 2017 Associated Press Prep Hockey Player of the Year for Minnesota. This year, Mittelstadt has two goals along with an assist totalling three points.

Another player to watch for in this upcoming series is Fighting Hawks goalie, Cam Johnson. Johnson earned NCHC Goaltender of the Week honors after his performance against St. Lawrence, stopping 47 of 49 shots over the two games which helped him lower his school-record goals against average to 2.04.

The Fighting Hawks will need Johnson to be at his best this weekend. Both the Gophers and the Fighting Hawks are averaging three goals per game this season. It will be down to both goalies to see who can stop either offense.

Cole Johnson is a staff writer for the Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]