Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Three Gopher Stars of the Weekend: Minnesota vs. Minnesota State

In a weekend where the Gophers struggled to pick up two wins against Minnesota State, which Minnesota players shined the brightest? Find out below in my Three Gopher Stars of the Weekend:

3. Kent Patterson: 52 saves on 56 shots, 0.929 Sv. %

Kent Patterson usually shows up in this segment for doing the things he does best: making the saves he's supposed to due to his rock-solid positioning. He usually doesn't give up soft goals and the Gophers have done a pretty good job of limiting the grade-A chances in front of him. This weekend was a different story for the Minnesota netminder. Patterson gave up a "soft" goal on Friday night, but the reason he earned the third star of the weekend was his ability to stop the breakaway. Minnesota State had a combined five breakaways in the weekend series, and Patterson stopped them all. In fact, the "soft" Evan Mosey goal was the only five-on-five goal Patterson gave up all weekend. Kent Patterson continues to give the Gophers the type of goalie play necessary for them to compete on the national stage, and Patterson's prowess at stopping the breakaway this weekend earned him the number three star.

2. Justin Holl: 0G-0A-0P

As you can see above, Holl had zero points on the weekend. This star isn't awarded on points alone, however. Holl has been steadily improving his game for the past month and a half, and he's starting to learn to do the things he's best at in order to help the Gophers out. Holl excels when skating with the puck - he's the best puck-handling defenseman on Minnesota's roster besides Ben Marshall - and he's found that he can use that aspect of his game to open up windows of opportunity for himself and his team. Holl has begun skating his way around and past defenders to open up better passing lanes or to get the puck past the red line and dump it in so that the forwards can gain control of the zone. At the beginning of the season, Holl would remain sedentary while deciding what to do with the puck, and as he lost time and space he'd often make a mistake. Now, Holl is becoming more proactive with the puck, and he is never afraid to let a shot go. His emergence has been one of the more exciting things to watch as far as player development goes from this Gopher team, and his continued improvement certainly helped Minnesota win two games this weekend. For that, Holl earns the number two star.

1. Taylor Matson: 2G-1A-3P

The captain once again tops the list of Gopher stars this week with a balanced performance in both games of the series. Matson scored the first goal of the game on Friday night and scored the second goal on Saturday. He also added an assist to the first Saturday goal. Matson's scoring on the weekend was nowhere near his biggest contribution, however. The senior forward wins every single one-on-one puck battle he engages in when he's out on the ice. This lead-by-example mentality has permeated through the team - his encouragement to get in shape over the offseason is perhaps the driving force behind the Gophers' conditioning edge and third-period dominance this season. The next time you're watching the game, though, watch Matson race to a puck that has been dumped in. If it's a 50/50 shot that he'll win the battle, chances are more like 80/20 that he'll come out with the puck. He creates so many offensive chances and limits the opposing team's puck possession time simply by hustling the way he does all the time. His contributions are often found off the score sheet, but with three points on the weekend Gopher captain Taylor Matson deserves the number one star.

Total Star Count

This section is sort of like the helmet stickers given to football players when they make a big play. Here's how it works: individual game star points will be awarded to first star (x3), second star (x2) and third star (x1), while weekend star points will be given to the first (x6), second (x4) and third (x2) stars. Please see below for your top Gopher stars of the season so far:

Patterson - 29 Points
Matson - 15
Rau - 14
Serratore - 10
Bjugstad - 9
Schmidt - 7
Condon - 6
Warning - 4
Budish - 4
Holl - 4
Haula - 3
Marshall - 2
Boyd - 1

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