Minnesota Heads to Madison for Border Battle


Men’s Hockey | 11/4/2021 12:19:00 AM

MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota gets its first taste of the Border Battle this weekend as the No. 5 Gopher men’s hockey program heads to Madison for a two-game, Big Ten series against Wisconsin. The Gophers and the Badgers open up the weekend on Friday, Nov. 5 at 7:00 p.m. CT (TV: Bally Sports North PLUS/Bally Sports Wisconsin PLUS; Radio: 1130 KTLK-AM/103.5 FM; Stream: B1G+/Bally Sports App) before the series finale on Saturday, Nov. 6 at 8:00 p.m. CT (TV: Bally Sports North PLUS/Bally Sports Wisconsin; Radio: 1130 KTLK-AM/103.5 FM; Stream: B1G+/Bally Sports App).


Bryce Brodzinski leads Minnesota with six goals and ranks second on the team with nine points in eight games this season. The forward, who has points in six of eight games this season, has found success against Wisconsin in the past with five of his 21 career goals coming against the Badgers. 


The Maroon & Gold hold a 175-99-24 all-time record against Wisconsin and will take on the program’s Border Battle rival for the 299th and 300th time this weekend. Minnesota holds a 10-3-1 record in the last 14 Border Battle games in Madison including 4-2-0 mark in Motzko’s three-year tenure with the Maroon & Gold.


Blake McLaughlin currently leads Minnesota in scoring with 11 points (two goals, nine assists) and has tallied points in six of eight games this year. The forward tied a career-high with four points (two goals, two assists) in Minnesota’s last game against Wisconsin — a 6-4 win in the 2021 Big Ten tournament championship game.


Jack LaFontaine was named the Big Ten Second Star of the Week after leading the Gophers to a series sweep over Notre Dame. The 2021 Mike Richter Award winner, who also earned First Team All-America and Big Ten Goaltender of the Year honors, stopped 54 of the 57 shots he faced over the weekend (.947 save percentage) and also helped Minnesota go 6-for-6 on the penalty kill in the series. 


Minnesota’s active leading scorer with 90 career points (37 goals, 53 assists) in 112 games, senior captain Sammy Walker needs 10 points to become the 85th and newest member of Minnesota’s 100-Point Club (first since Rem Pitlick in 2018-19). The three-year team captain has recorded the deciding goal in two of Minnesota’s four wins this season. 


Gopher Hockey All-American alum Kyle Rau made his first appearance with the Minnesota Wild last week. The forward is the 20th University of Minnesota alum to play in the NHL already this year while the Maroon & Gold have sent an NCAA-best 116 products to the NHL in program history. No college team had more NHL alums last season than Minnesota with 22. 


The University of Minnesota has agreed to a three-year contract extension with Gopher men’s hockey head coach Bob Motzko that will keep Motzko with the Maroon & Gold through the 2025-26 season. A native of Austin, Minn., Motzko is in his fourth season with the Gophers and holds a 63-40-11 record since taking over the program in 2018. In 17 seasons as a Division I head coach, the 2020 Big Ten Coach of the Year and five-time conference coach of the year owns a 339-232-60 record.


The Gophers landed on the top spot of the 2021-22 Big Ten Hockey Coaches’ Poll earlier this season ahead of Michigan, Wisconsin, Notre Dame, Penn State, Michigan State and Ohio State. In the eight-year history of the Big Ten Conference, the Gophers have claimed a league-high four regular-season conference championships as well as two Big Ten tournament titles including last year’s thrilling playoff run by the Maroon & Gold. Minnesota also led the Big Ten with six individuals on the 2021-22 Preseason All-Big Ten Hockey Teams, headlined by four players earning First Team honors. The Gophers were represented in the preseason honor roll by Jackson LaCombe (First Team), Jack LaFontaine (First Team), Ben Meyers (First Team), Sammy Walker (First Team), Brock Faber (Second Team) and Ryan Johnson (Second Team). Mike Koster also earned honorable mention honors on behalf of the Maroon & Gold.


The 101st season of Gopher Hockey will see three familiar faces and college hockey veterans leading the ‘U’ as Sammy Walker, Jack LaFontaine and Ben Meyers have been named team captains for the 2021-22 season. Walker will enter his senior season wearing a “C” for the third-straight season for the Maroon & Gold while LaFontaine and Meyers have been elevated to share the honors after serving as alternate captains during the 2020-21 campaign. With all three players returning to the Minnesota leadership group, Gopher Hockey has now featured 175 captains dating back to the school’s first season of play in 1921-22 when Chet Bros led the Maroon & Gold as team captain.


Mike Richter Award winner and Hobey Baker Award finalist Jack LaFontaine returns to the Gophers for his fifth season of college hockey in 2021-22. A First Team All-American and First Team All-Big Ten selection, LaFontaine was also named the Big Ten Goaltender of the Year. The Carolina Hurricane prospect set new school records and was among the NCAA leaders with a .934 save percentage and a 1.79 GAA while he led the nation with 22 wins. Off the ice, LaFontaine was named a recipient of the Big Ten Medal of Honor and was the only Division I men’s hockey player to earn CoSIDA First Team Academic All-America honors.


Fifteen of Minnesota’s 26 players on the 2021-22 roster have been selected in the NHL Entry Draft including five newcomers — Chaz Lucius (2021), Matthew Knies (2021), Tristan Broz (2021), Aaron Huglen (2019) and Rhett Pitlick (2019). Lucius is the 22nd Gopher Hockey prospect selected in the first round (18th overall by Winnipeg), joining 2019 first rounder Ryan Johnson on this year’s roster for Minnesota. Meanwhile, Knies and Broz were selected with back-to-back picks in the second round this year. 


Gopher Hockey alum Paul Holmgren will be enshrined into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame as a member of the Class of 2021. Holmgren is the 18th U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame honoree with ties to Gopher men’s hockey…Four Gophers (Brock Faber, Matthew Knies, Chaz Lucius, Tristan Broz) will look to represent the University of Minnesota and the United States at the IIHF World Junior Championships this year. Faber is a return invite to the team after helping the U.S. to a gold medal last year along with fellow Gopher defensemen Jackson LaCombe and Ryan Johnson


The 100th season of Gopher Hockey certainly was a memorable one as Minnesota won an NCAA-best 24 games in 2020-21. The Gophers won three thrilling games to capture the Big Ten tournament title and returned to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2017 before picking up the program’s first NCAA tournament win since 2014 at the NCAA West Regional. Minnesota started the year on a 10-0-0 run for the first time since 1939-40 and earned nine sweeps in 13 series during the regular-season. Nationally ranked all season long, the Gophers kept themselves in the top-five of both national polls since the beginning of December including the team’s first No. 1 ranking in both polls since Nov. 11, 2014. Along with LaFontaine’s national awards, the Gophers boasted a trio of All-Americans in LaFontaine (First Team), Sampo Ranta (First Team) and Jackson LaCombe (Second Team). 


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