With one of the greatest rivalries in hockey set for this weekend at Mariucci Arena, the No. 1 Gophers spoke with members of the media on Wednesday ahead of the team's Western Collegiate Hockey Association series with No. 6 North Dakota.
The Friday-Saturday series marks the final regular-season meetings between the two intense rivals with both teams calling the WCHA home. The Gophers move to the Big Ten Conference next season while North Dakota heads to the NCHC. The significance of this weekend's series hasn't been lost on the players or staff as the weekend approaches.
"There's always a little extra emotion when you're playing North Dakota just because of the rivalry," Minnesota redshirt junior Zach Budish said.
Even beyond the rivalry, this weekend's series has significant implications to the league race as the second half of the season continues. Minnesota (16-3-3- overall, 8-3-3 WCHA) and North Dakota (13-6-3, 8-3-3) are current tied for third in the WCHA -- one point behind a two-way tie for first between Denver and Omaha.
"It's a critical weekend as far as WCHA play and standings are concerned," Minnesota coach Don Lucia said.