MINNEAPOLIS, Minn.–Minnesota had a strong start to its 2017 season after defeating Minnesota State–Mankato, 21-6, last weekend. This Friday, the Gophers will start a rare three-game weekend, as they will first play Iowa State at 8:00pm. Minnesota will then make its CCLA debut versus Western Michigan on Saturday at noon, followed by Minnesota–Duluth on Sunday 11am. All three games will be played at Dundas Dome.
The Gophers’ win over the Maveriks extended their season-opener winning streak to 10 games. The offense was led by the starting attack trio, Nick Abbott, Amar Batra, and Bodhi Engum. Batra led all goal scorers with 6 goals, a program record for most goals scored in a freshman debut. Abbott added 3 goals for his tenth career hat trick, and Engum scored 2 goals. Freshman midfielder Phil Wagner scored his first collegiate goal in his debut, and junior attackman Kilian Wilson also had his first collegiate goal. Minnesota showed its depth as 12 different Gophers contributed at least a goal. Niklas Damberg won 21 of 26 faceoffs (0.80), while Matt Jorgensen made 11 saves on 6 goals against (0.647).
IOWA STATE PREVIEW:
The Cylcones’ 2016 season was their best in over ten years after finishing 7-6. They are led by their senior attackman, Ted Ramert, who has led the team in scoring the past three seasons. Minnesota is undefeated against Iowa State, and in their previous matchup, the Gophers pulled away with a 13-3 win.
WESTERN MICHIGAN PREVIEW:
Western Michigan went 6-5 (3-3, CCLA) last year, finishing 4th in the CCLA standings. Under 3rd year head coach Brad McDougal, the Broncos will be looking for players to step up after graduating 3 of their top five scorers. Returning for the Broncos is sophomore Chase Quesada who was second in points as a freshman in 2016 with 21 goals, 16 assists. Minnesota last played Western Michigan in 2013 which the Gophers won 11-6.
The Gopher-Bulldog rivalry continues, as Minnesota and Minnesota-Duluth will face-off for the Gophers’ third and final game of the weekend. The Bulldogs have begun to struggle against the Gophers more recently as the Gophers have been victorious in meetings the past two years.
Minnesota–Duluth has a couple new additions to their coaching staff this year. Ben Blaeser and Alex Mcnamara, both 2012 graduates of from Minnesota–Duluth, were recently named co-head coaches. Mcnamara has been an assistant with Minnesota-Duluth since 2014. The Bulldogs finished 2016 with an overall record of 7-7 and a bid to the national championship tournament in their first year competing in Division II. They have been ranked No. 8 in the Division II preseason polls. Their largest adjustment will be reloading their offense, which has lost 4 of their top-5 scorers to graduation.
With his 6 points this past weekend, senior attackman Nick Abbott is now 4 points away from a career 100 points. The Apple Valley native currently sits at 96 career points with 57 goals and 39 assists.
Sophomore Clay Diedrich earned his first start at defense against Minnesota State–Mankato. The 6’6” former midfielder from Cottage Grove is transitioning well into his new position as he showed this past weekend his ability to make large defensive plays. Expect to see Diedrich start this weekend.