The Minnesota men's hockey team met with the media Wednesday prior to flying off to Grand Rapids, Mich. for the NCAA West Regional beginning Friday afternoon.
The Gophers' opponent in the opening round of the tournament is the Yale Bulldogs. The Minnesota players are not too familiar with their Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference opponent, but they are looking forward to the challenge.
"It is always fun to play a team new team like Yale," forward Nate Condon said. It is the first meeting between The Gophers and Bulldogs since Minnesota claimed a 7-3 victory during the 2002 Dodge Holiday Classic at Mariucci Arena.
Head coach Don Lucia, who has coached alongside Yale head coach Keith Allain, offered some insight into how the Bulldogs like to play.
"(Yale) wants to get up and down the rink. They try to recruit skilled players," Lucia said. "This year, they had had a lot of success. They beat Denver, beat Colorado College, and tied Boston College all on the road."
Senior defenseman Seth Helgeson thinks the Gophers are well prepared to face Yale. "In our non-conference schedule we played a team like (Boston College), and they were a quick team, so we should be ready for (Yale)," Helgeson said. "We know we have to play physical, but we like to play an up and down type of game too."
A Gopher win on Friday afternoon means a matchup with either North Dakota or Niagara on Saturday. While some of the players admitted they might have to guard against looking ahead towards a potential matchup with archrival North Dakota, defenseman Nate Schmidt knows the focus needs to be on Yale.
"Hopefully, we will have a great game Friday night. I am just really excited to play Yale," Schmidt said. "If we win the game, whoever we get after that will be a great game."
All three games from the NCAA West Regional can be seen live on ESPNU. The Gophers will tangle with the Bulldogs on Friday at 1 p.m. CT. The regional final is scheduled for 3 p.m. CT on Saturday. The Gophers are two wins away from a return trip to the Frozen Four after reaching the crowning event of the college hockey season for the first time in seven seasons last year.
Story by Communications Student Intern Josh Brennock