This weekend the Spartans hockey team welcomes the #1 ranked Minnesota Golden Gophers to town for their B1G season opener. Chris from the SBNation Minnesota blog, The Daily Gopher, was kind enough to answer some of my questions previewing this weekend's series. I also answered some questions for him that will be up over there later this week.
1) Minnesota comes to East Lansing as the number 1 team in the country this weekend. Is this type of season what the fans expected and what has led you guys to such a great start?
You're asking a Gopher fan whether he thinks Minnesota should be having a good season? Don't you know that if we had our way the NCAA would just issue us a national title every season? Seriously though, I know this is the kind of start to the season that Gopher fans were hoping for. That said, it was hard to know what to expect from this team early on given the talent that was lost to the NHL and the large number of young guys who were going to have to contribute. The start we've seen hasn't been flawless, but I'm certainly satisfied by what I've seen.
2.) Minnesota always has top recruiting classes but this class having 58 pts seems exceptional. Is this production what Gopher fans envisioned this season?
I certainly didn't expect it. Youth and inexperience was the #1 question mark for this team, so this level of production is fantastic. Personally, my favorite young gun has been Hudson Fasching. First off, his name is fantastic. But more importantly, he's come in and played big. Not just in terms of production, but in style as well. He's comfortable using his size to crash the net and mix it up out front. Justin Kloos has also been a fun surprise, as his speed is extremely impressive. His USHL teammate Taylor Cammarata has also adjusted nicely and they bring an extra level of comfort and awareness when they play together on the second line with senior captain Nate Condon.
3.) People tend to focus on the offense of the Gophers but Adam Wilcox has good stats as well. Are his numbers a product of great defenseman or has Wilcox stood on his head?
The defense has been solid for the most part, but there have definitely been nights when Adam has gone #WALLCOX. Here's a good example of what we've grown accustomed to seeing:
He's a major reason Gopher fans were feeling pretty good coming into the year despite the unknowns created by the youth. He's had his off nights (the 3 goal period against BC comes to mind), but on the whole he tends to play closer to that GIF
4.) With Nick Bjudstad and Zach Budish gone who are the most dangerous Gophers for Spartan fans to keep their eye on?
The most enjoyable thing about this team is that the scoring is coming from all over. The Gophers have five guys who have scored at least 5 goals. The hot hand coming out of the weekend sweep of Wisconsin would be Seth Ambroz. I don't know that I'd call him the most explosive, but the most consistent player has been Sam Warning. He is averaging over an assist per game so I'd expect that Michigan State fans will hear his name this weekend. Kyle Rau can be counted on for a putback goal or getting one of your guys into the box with his chirping (A little guy who plays big and talks big? Me likey).
5.) Most MSU fans seem happy with the move from the CCHA to B1G hockey. Minnesota lost some great rivals from the WCHA in North Dakota and Minnesota-Duluth. What is the pulse of the Gopher fan base on B1G Hockey?
At best I'd say Gopher fans are accepting of the move. I haven't met many (any?) Gopher fans who wanted the move to happen. There's a subset of the fanbase who likes to ridicule the move and things about the move and I expect that will continue for a while.
6.) The Honeycrisp trophy is on the line this weekend again, after our football team won last weekend. Does the Daily Gopher leave East Lansing with the trophy (yes/no) and why?
This is an interesting question as the rules of the Honeycrisp mean that if the Gophers and Spartans split the series and MSU wins Saturday night the trophy stays with The Only Colors. Honestly though, I'm looking for the Gophers to take at least 3 points home with them, which would mean the Honeycrisp would come back as well. If this series were at home I'd be tempted to predict a sweep. Instead, call it a Gopher win on Friday and a tie on Saturday (since the Gophers are playing worse on Saturday's for some reason).