College hockey returned this weekend in a big way as the #1/2 University of Minnesota Golden Gophers started off the year beating Michigan State 5-1 Friday and 7-1 Saturday. Minnesota, who reached the Frozen Four last season, got a sense of revenge with the Spartans after MSU beat and tied them last year in East Lansing.
One of the more impressive feats sweeping Michigan State was that the Gophers scored 12 goals by ten different players. Minnesota showed off some serious depth this weekend and Saturday's game featured goals from all four lines. Only two players, Ben Marshall and 2009 Wild seventh round pick Erik Haula, scored twice against an overwhelmed team.
So that means the return of those "Erik Haula beast mode" posts.
Haula, Minnesota's top returning scorer, scored a goal each night and the 5'11" junior forward created both goals out of a second effort. Friday night's goal came from a second effort where Erik drove to the net, grabbed his own rebound and flipped it high on Michigan State goalie Will Yanakeff.
Saturday night's goal came 85 seconds into the game when Haula took a Sam Warning pass in stride, drove towards the net and scored sliding past (and into) Yanakeff to give Minnesota a 1-0 lead. He also got an assist on Marshall's goal en route to being named the #1 star.
Like last year, Erik is centering the second line with Sam Warning. With Jake Hansen graduating, however, last year's top-line right winger Zach Budish is now to his right and Christian Isackson with Nick Bjugstad and Kyle Rau. It's a move that was made for more balance among the lines and given the scoring and chemistry between Budish and Haula last weekend, seemed to work.
I asked Haula after Saturday's game about what playing with Budish meant for his game. He spoke highly of how the Nashville Predators prospect's size (listed at 6'3" 214 lbs) helped open up space on the ice for the 5'9 Sam Warning and him.
"Warning and I need a big body up front and (Budish) does that," Haula said. "I was really happy with how we played together.
We'll also have a John Draeger scouting report from this weekend up at some point. Thanks to Fox Sports North for continuing to post every Gopher goal/important moment from their broadcasts.