College Hockey: Minnesota Gopher Hockey Back on Top

Peter StrohmeierContributor INovember 8, 2011

ST PAUL, MN - JUNE 25:  91st overall pick Kyle Rau by the Florida Panthers poses for a photo portrait during day two of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft at Xcel Energy Center on June 25, 2011 in St Paul, Minnesota.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Nick Laham/Getty Images

It’s been a long few years for Gopher hockey fans, but Gopher hockey is finally back on top.  

On Monday, it was announced by the two major polls in college hockey that the Gophers were the top-ranked team for the week.  This news reportedly crashed the USCHO website.

This past weekend, the Gophers showed that they were indeed for real.  The Gophers completed a weekend sweep of bitter rival North Dakota, after a remarkable game-winning goal with 46 seconds left in regulation by Kyle Rau. 

On Friday night, the Gophers beat UND 2-0 after goals by Nick Bjugstad and Tom Serratore.

The Gophers boast three of the Top Five leading scorers in the nation in Erik Haula, Kyle Rau and Nick Bjugstad.  Haula leads the nation with 17 points.  Rau and Bjugstad both have 15 points each. 

On the other side of the puck, Nate Schmidt is second in scoring among defensemen in college hockey with 12 points.  Schmidt has been a pleasant surprise this year. 

Last but not least, Kent Patterson has been amazing in goal.  Patterson has five shutouts on the year and is among the top goaltenders in the country with a .942 save percentage.  After his fifth shutout from the Friday night game, Patterson tied a school record for shutouts set by past Hobey Baker award winner, Robb Stauber.

While it always tough to lose to a rival like Minnesota, UND does have reason for hope.  After missing most of the games thus far this year, highly-touted newcomer Rocco Grimaldi returned to the lineup on Saturday night. 

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 25:  Nick Bjugstad, drafted 19th by the Florida Panthers, poses for a portrait during the 2010 NHL Entry Draft at Staples Center on June 25, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

Grimaldi scored his first collegiate goal in the 3-2 loss to the Gophers.  Grimaldi paid homage to Tim Tebow by tebowing after his first goal. 

This weekend also gave the Florida Panthers organization a glimpse of the future.  Rau, Bjugstad, Grimaldi, and Corban Knight were all drafted by the Panthers within the past few years.

The Gophers make the tough road trip to Madison next weekend to take on yet another rival, Wisconsin. 

Photos:  Kyle Rau and Nick Bjugstad