The Minnesota men's hockey team met with the media before practice on Wednesday afternoon. After being swept for the first time all season last week in Denver, the Gophers have an important series against in-state rival Bemidji State. Here is what head coach Don Lucia and players Zach Budish had to say about last week, this week, and about playing teams from the State of Hockey:
On being swept at Denver and the team's situation within the WCHA Standings and the PairWise Rankings...
Don Lucia, head coach:
"It's so close with everybody right now. The system was meant to be looked at when the final game has been played and there's still a lot of hockey to be played. We all have six regular-season game to go and we have playoffs to be had. We're in a good position right now. I like where we are in the league and overall. We control our own destiny and you have to continue to win."
"You feel a sense of urgency all season long and nothing changes. There's three weeks to go and we're in first and we're sitting in a good situation. When the year began, we'd take where we're at in a heartbeat and now we just have to finish."
Nate Schmidt, sophomore:
"It happens. It comes with the territory and playing a good team like Denver. Stuff like that happens, but it's more about how we handle it. It's this week, it's how we take on Bemidji State this weekend, and how we finish off the year against Nebraska-Omaha and Wisconsin. It's how we finish off these last six games that's going to determine how well we are as a team and how we can play moving forward into the playoffs. For me, it's where we are at the end of the year."
Zach Budish, redshirt sophomore:
"We didn't do too well in our non-conference games and our conference as a whole didn't do too hot either. That's just how it works and now we're not only fighting to win the league, but make the NCAA Tournament."
"You look (at the PairWise Rankings) after every weekend. I'd be lying if I said we weren't concerned about that too. We just have to take it one week at a time."
On the Bemidji State series...
"Everyone has tough games against them. They have one of the top goalies in the league and they have very much a junior/senior team. They play mistake-free hockey. They're going to make you beat them. They're not going to beat themselves and that's why they're one of the most difficult teams to play in our league and we saw that last year. We had two great games against them and both were overtime games and I wouldn't be surprised if that happened again this week."
"We got a good, hot Bemidji State team coming in this weekend. They're playing really good hockey and a big four points are on the line this weekend."
"We played them at the end of last year and tied and won the next game in overtime, so we know they're a good team. They started a bit slow this year, but over their last 15 games or so they've been one of the top team in the league and nationally, too."
"They're one of those teams that plays better as the year goes on. They're one of those teams that waits for you to have mistakes and they capitalize off your mishaps. We have to control the puck really well this weekend. We can't have a lot of turnovers. If we have a lot of turnovers against a team like Bemidji State, it's going to equate to a tough weekend."
On playing against another in-state rival:
"We put a big emphasis on reestablishing ourselves within the state of Minnesota and we've done a pretty good job of that so far. We've won seven out of eight in our in-state rivalries and we've got two more this weekend against Bemidji State. That was emphasis coming into the year--beating teams within our own state, then in the conference, and then nationally."