By Edwina Reckel (story) and Reid Strait (video)
The Gophers' schedule doesn't ease them into conference games as their first road game comes against the reigning national champs, the University of Minnesota-Duluth. At media availability Wednesday, head coach Don Lucia and players discussed last weekend's win and how the team is preparing to face one of their biggest rivals.
Lucia started off by saying that despite the two easy non-conference wins, the team is ready to take on Duluth.
"It doesn't matter who we played last week... It's a different ball game. Last year we had good games against Duluth. This is a whole new experience for our kids. We have a lot of young guys and juniors and seniors we can rely on," Lucia said.
Despite the challenge of going on the road straight out of the gate, Lucia said he likes the change of schedule.
"The road has been pretty good to us, and it helps the goaltender to have a good start on the road. We just have to hang in there... If you're going to have a successful season you have to find a way to get points every weekend, home or away."
The Gophers, although confident coming off of season-opening victories, know that the team must grow as a young defensive core, get solid more solid play in the net from Kent Patterson, improve penalty kills and work on their consistency in order to go far as a team.
Defensemen Mark Alt also addressed the media Wednesday, and talked about how the atmosphere of the team has changed.
"This weekend we are playing a much better team. We could have won [last weekend's] games 4-1 and not have been as excited for them," Alt said. "Anytime you score 15 goals in a weekend it's pretty happy as the team sees it and obviously Duluth it's going to be a different style of game, but I think that was a good weekend for us to have before going to Duluth."
Alt was confident about a positive change in the Gophers since last year as well.
"I feel like we have a different team. This team is more driven than any team I've played on," he said.
Forward Jake Hansen praised Patterson's performance this past weekend and stressed that the Gophers are prepared for their match-up with the Bulldogs.
"We know how Duluth plays. They've had a good power play since I've been here and watching film, it looks strong again."
Alt summarized the Gophers' stance for the big series this weekend: "It's important to go up there and make a statement that the Gophers are back."