The Gophers met with the media Wednesday afternoon to discuss this weekend's two-game battle with the Wisconsin Badgers. The two teams will tangle Friday in Madison before the team takes the bus ride to Chicago for Sunday's OfficeMax Hockey City Classic at Soldier Field.
The Gophers enter the weekend five points behind idle St. Cloud State for the top spot in the standings, making every game vital. Head coach Don Lucia knows the team's focus has to be on Friday's matchup before they turn their attention to playing outdoors. "We are going to worry about the Chicago game on Saturday. We want to make sure we have a good week of practice and get ready to play Friday in Madison."
The importance of Friday's game has been made clear to the players. "It has been a emphasis all week that our goal was to come out ready on Friday night," defenseman Mark Alt said.
Forward Erik Haula spelled out why both games this weekend is so important. "With the standings so close and the two games in hand, we have to focus on Friday and go from there."
At the same time, it is only human nature to have an eye towards playing Sunday at Soldier Field. "We are really excited (for the game in Chicago.) It is going to be a fun weekend, "Alt said.
When the Gophers last met the Badgers in November, Wisconsin was off to very slow start. Mike Eaves' team has since found their grove, dropping only two of their last 14 games. "(Wisconsin) is winning some of the close games now. Our mindset has to be to try and win a 2-1 or 3-2 game," Lucia said. "We are going to have to do something on the power play because we know five-on-five it will be difficult to score."
Friday's game at the Kohl Center can be seen at 7:00 p.m. on Fox Sports North. Sunday's tilt at Soldier Field will be on BTN. Game time is 3:30 p.m.
-Story by University of Minnesota Communications Intern Josh Brennock