The men's hockey team met with members of the media before
this weekend's WCHA showdown with the Omaha Mavericks.
The Mavericks will arrive at Mariucci with a record of 8-3-1, setting up an important weekend for the Gophers. "It should be a good weekend. You look at some of (Omaha's) stats, they are right at the top in scoring and goals against. Omaha is probably the best team we have played this year," head coach Don Lucia said.
Sophomore forward Seth Ambroz agrees, "It is going to be a fun weekend. Coach Blais has done a wonderful job with the program. They have a really good team this year with a lot of skill and big bodies."
This weekend represents the beginning of a tough stretch for Minnesota, "We have four really important games coming up with (Omaha) and (Colorado College). You look at how those teams have played, and they probably will have home ice (for the playoffs)," Lucia said.
Omaha presents a unique challenge to the Gopher forwards. The Mavericks defense is extremely tall. They feature seven defensemen standing 6-2 or taller, led by 6-foot 8-inch Andrej Sustr and 6-foot 7-inch Jaycob Megna. The size and strength of the Mavericks' blue liners makes getting to the front of the net more difficult.
One Gopher who is used to a size advantage over opponents is Nick Bjugstad. The 6-foot 6-inch center will face stiff competition of the key ice in front of the net, "In practice, we have been working on staying tough in front of the net. Just making sure we play tough this weekend is the biggest thing. We are going to need some dirty goals." The Gophers hope to solve the problem by using speed on Mariucci's larger ice sheet. "I think the Olympic-sized rink is a little different than the NHL-size rink, so I think their defenseman will have to adjust to that," Bjugstad said.
Minnesota completed a weekend sweep of the Vermont Catamounts over the Thanksgiving weekend, "It was a good trip for us last weekend. Being it was an area we have not been at before. It is a great community and I loved the rink we had an opportunity to play in," Lucia said.
Seth Ambroz said the experience in Vermont was enjoyable and showed the team's resiliency, "It was nice to start clicking. It really came together Friday night. Even on Saturday, we did what it took to get the win. To be able to hold them off when they had the momentum shows that we can do what it takes to win."
Both games against the Mavericks this weekend will start at 7 p.m. and can be seen live on FOX Sports North.
Story by Minnesota Communications Intern Josh Brennock