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No margin for error: Gophers men need a sweep against Robert Morris

GOPHERS MEN'S HOCKEY SERIES PREVIEW

Friday (7 p.m.) and Saturday (5 p.m.) vs. Robert Morris at 3M Arena at Mariucci

TV: FOX9+ both nights

Randy Johnson's preview:

Opening bell: A January series against one of college hockey's also-rans won't make a team's NCAA tournament case, but it certainly can break it. That's what the Gophers (10-6-4) face this weekend against Robert Morris, a program that was reinstated this fall after being eliminated by the school following the 2020-21 season. The Colonials (6-13-3) are 62nd among the 64 Division I teams in the PairWise Ratings, and the Gophers, who sit 12th in the PairWise, can't afford a loss that would drag down their stock. Need proof? See the series splits against lowly-ranked St. Lawrence and Ferris State in the 2018-19 season that tanked Minnesota in the PairWise and kept the Gophers out of the NCAA tournament.

Watch him: Fresh off helping Team USA win the gold medal in the World Junior Championship, sophomore forward Jimmy Snuggerud jump-started the second half of the season by scoring five goals and assisting on another in a series split against Colorado College. Snuggerud scored two goals in a 6-4 loss in the opener and followed up with a hat trick and an assist in a 6-2 win in the finale. Snuggerud, whose 16 goals are tied for second nationally, was named Big Ten first star of the week for his performance.

Forecast: This is the final nonconference series of the regular season for the Gophers, and it offers a chance for Minnesota to show it can dominate an opponent. The Gophers have 12 NHL draft picks on their roster, including three first-rounders, while Robert Morris has never had a player skate in an NHL game. The Gophers have posted only one series sweep this season, and that was on opening weekend against St. Thomas. They should add a second sweep against the Colonials, whose nonconference highlight has been a split at Bowling Green. For a team that aspires to return to the Frozen Four, this year in St. Paul, stacking victories starting Friday and continuing through the final six Big Ten series is a must.

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