Gophers Talk About Denver, Having a Bye Week, and Team Defense

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The Minnesota men's hockey team met with the media before practice on Wednesday afternoon. After their final off week of the regular season, the No. 2/1 Gophers will travel to fourth-place and 14th-ranked Denver to play a pair of games in the Mile High City. Here is what head coach Don Lucia and some of his players had to say about this weekend's opponent, having a week off, and about the team's second-ranked defense:

On Denver...

Head Coach Don Lucia:
"Denver was a team that was picked to win the league--they're very talented. They've had some injuries over the course of the season, but now they're starting to get most of their guys back and I think they're one of the most talented teams in our league.

"We've struggled out there. We're 2-8 in our last 10 against them and in those losses, we've scored a grand total of five goals--less than one a night--and you're not going to win like that."

Sophomore Nick Bjugstad:
"Last year, their freshman class was pretty outstanding and they're all here this year, so we know what they got. They're a young team, but they're very talented so we have to bring it."

Redshirt Sophomore Zach Budish:
"Anytime you play the preseason favorite it's a pretty big deal. They're getting a lot of guys back from injury. They've had an up-and-down year, but they're starting to play really well. Since Christmas break they've been really good."

On the off week...

Lucia:
"It's as much mental as physical. Last week, we practiced Monday, took Tuesday completely off, went Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, and took Saturday and Sunday off. I think we've had a good week of practice. The players seem fresh and hopefully the off week won't catch up to us in the first period on Friday and we can have a good first period. We should have good energy mentally and physically this weekend."

Bjugstad:
"I think it was good. We hadn't had our week off yet, so it's good for our legs. I think we got some good rest and conditioned as well. We want to make sure we stay in good condition heading out to Denver. We had some good practices and I think we'll be ready to go on Friday.

"Kyle Rau and I didn't get much of a break heading out to Edmonton (for the World Junior Championships) this past month. It was good for us to get a little break for our legs."

On the success of the team's defense this year...

Bjugstad:
"I think our defensemen are doing a really good job with gap control and they're getting pucks out of the zone. I can't say enough about our D right now and I think our forwards are helping out a bit too."

Budish:
"Our team defense has been good all year and it starts with Kent. He's one of the top goalies, not only in the league, but in the whole country. Having him back there is huge along with our six defensemen. We've done a good job of shutting down the other teams' top lines and keeping shots to the outside. We've played good team defense all year and we've got to continue to do that."

Freshman Kyle Rau:
"We got a really good goaltender back there. Pretty much every game we go into, we know that we're going to have a chance to win because of him and we have a good D core, so that's huge for us."

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