The Gophers series against No. 6 Michigan showed how hot-and-cold its defense has been all season.
No. 17 Minnesota allowed six goals last Thursday, but on Friday, the team allowed only three third-period shots by the Wolverines in an overtime victory.
The Gophers defense has allowed an average of 2.87 goals per game this season, which ranks 33rd in college hockey. On a few of the team’s off nights, opponents have scored in bunches, but when the defense is playing well, like on Friday, it’s been hard to penetrate.
“To slow down a high-scoring offense like that, shot-wise, that was good,” freshman goaltender Eric Scheirhorn said. “Shows what kind of team we can be when we’re clicking on all cylinders.”
Minnesota’s two most reliable defensemen this season have been juniors Jake Bischoff and Michael Brodzinski. The two have played in every game so far this year, and they’ve been a pair since the fifth game of the season.
It’s the only defensive pairing head coach Don Lucia hasn’t touched in that time frame.
“It’s been great playing with [Brodzinski],” Bischoff said. “We’re starting to get some good chemistry, and we know where we’re going to be on the ice.”
Bischoff and Brodzinski are the only two defensemen on the roster who came into the season with more than two years of playing experience at Minnesota.
Both defensemen have set a career-high in points this season, with Brodzinski ahead of Bischoff with 18. He also scored a hat trick against Wisconsin in January, which was the first for a Minnesota defenseman since 2007.
Bischoff has 14 points and five goals, four of which came on the power play.
“I’ve just been having … good net traffic in front,” Bischoff said. “I’ve been able to get a couple of pucks through, and they’ve been able to go in for me.”
Junior Nick Seeler and sophomores Jack Glover, Steve Johnson and Ryan Collins are the Gophers other regular defensemen. Lucia said the team’s freshmen and sophomore defenders are developing well, which could give the team a deep defensive corps next year.
For this year though the defense is going to have to keep it up if the team wants its fifth consecutive regular season title and NCAA tournament berth.
“Everybody has to step up their game this time of the year,” Lucia said. “When you look at the guys that play, they’re pretty balanced.”