Minnesota won its 13th MacNaughton Cup this year, but its first since the 2006-07 season. We talked with several members of this year's team about what winning the MacNaughton Cup meant to them.
Don Lucia, head coach
It is a tremendous accomplishment for our players. They have been through a lot, especially our senior class. They desperately wanted to be able to leave something behind when they left this program and they have done that this year by winning the MacNaughton Cup. However, I think they all feel there is more to accomplish.
It was great to win it in such dramatic fashion. Even though we knew we had part of it, the guys desperately wanted to win it outright. We were down in the third period and Erik Haula made a great play on the shorthanded goal and Nate Schmidt made an even better play by holding that puck in and then faking and scoring. The fans were into it. The building was as loud as I can remember it being. I also think having it on Senior Night made it extra special.
Mike Guentzel, associate head coach
That is what you play for in the regular season. It is such a prestigious award and to be able to see our guys the other day have that celebration and that mentality was nice. The fans were into it and it means a great deal for our program. People expect us to do well and when you come in here the expectation is to put the program at a high level. Hopefully we are going to continue to have success and not once every five or so years. Hopefully it is on a regular basis. It is such a competitive league and tough to win, but you cherish it when it happens.
The last time I was here we had won it, but this time had a special feeling. It had not happened in a long time and sometimes you take things for granted. It is hard to win and some guys here have had difficulty being on a championship-level team so it was nice to see them win. It was hard to do, but I think that made it more rewarding.
Grant Potulny, assistant coach
It was a remarkable evening with the way the crowd was and the way we came back and won the game. It is such a hard trophy to win. When I played, we had a lot of success here as a team, but never won the MacNaughton Cup. It represents a successful season and goes to the best team all year and takes consistency and effort and a little bit of luck. It was very fun to win and now there is a banner that will be hanging for the rest of Gopher history in Mariucci Arena.
Taylor Matson captained the Gophers to their first MacNaughton Cup in five years.
Winning the MacNaughton Cup is what we worked so hard for, especially for this team. We have worked really hard together especially in the offseason and at the beginning of the year. It was an amazing feeling being out there on the ice and winning. Our senior class has been through a lot as well the last three years so to finally have something that was successful for our team was special. We were able to hang a banner in here and it will be fun to come back years from now with our kids and show them that. To be part of the tradition of Gopher Hockey is what you come to Minnesota for. I am glad we can be a part of it.
Jake Hansen, senior alternate captain
It is amazing. It almost feels like it did not happen, like it was a dream. Our senior class has been through a lot. We came here with 12 or 13 guys and now there are only seven of us. It is amazing to win the league with a group of guys that you have been so close with. We worked very hard for this, especially in the summer in the weight room. It is nice to finally get rewarded for our hard work. Guys talk about hanging banners and you never realize it being here, but not too many teams have won the MacNaughton Cup. Even the teams that won the two recent national championship were not able to do that and they had unbelievable teams. It shows that we were able to put together a full year of consistently good hockey and to be able to do that in our league, which is pretty tough, is cool.
Nico Sacchetti, senior
It would have been embarrassing if we were the only class to come through here and not win anything. It feels good to get that monkey off our back. We got that out of the way and now we can stop worrying about that and just focus on doing more in the playoffs. It will be nice to come back years down the road and see that banner hanging up. It will be nice to see something and think, "I was part of that." That kind of solidified us as being part of the tradition.
Nate Schmidt, sophomore
It is and unbelievable accomplishment for us so far. One of our goals at the beginning of the season was to bring the MacNaughton Cup back to Minneapolis. It was a hard-fought season but there are still things to be done. It was unbelievable to win it for the seniors. You could see the genuine excitement on their faces. They have been through a lot. Look at our captain Taylor Matson, hopefully he will be able to play in his first playoff game this weekend. You could see how excited they are about being able to leave a legacy behind. I am really proud and honored to be part of a team that will be up in the rafters forever. It is a testament to the group that we have been throughout the year. We have great unity on this team and it feels really good. But we are not satisfied. We have a lot of stuff to do the rest of the season. It begins this weekend with Alaska Anchorage. I was in the stands last year for this exact weekend. It is going to be a good test for us to see where we are at because come playoff time anybody can beat anybody.
Kyle Rau, freshman
It is cool because you can see how hard our seniors wanted it and how much it means to them. It is fun to be a part of that and help them do something they have wanted to do.