Members of the Minnesota men's hockey team met with the media ahead of this weekend's WCHA Final Five at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn. Based on earning a share of the MacNaughton Cup and the tournament's No. 2-seed, the Gophers receive a bye and will first play in Friday night's semifinal against either North Dakota or Colorado College.
The players are looking forward to participating in the program's last WCHA Final Five before leaving to join the new Big Ten Hockey Conference next season. "It is one of the more fun tournaments of the year. We know that our fan base will be behind us and whoever we play will have a lot of fans there as well," forward Erik Haula said.
The Gophers opponent on Friday night will be determined by Thursday night's quarterfinal between North Dakota and Colorado College. Regardless of the opponent, head coach Don Lucia believes a quick start will be key, "I think the first period is very important. I think the team who played the day before has an advantage early in the game. Hopefully, we have an advantage as the game goes on because we are rested."
Minnesota is very familiar with both North Dakota and Colorado College. Erik Haula thinks the semifinal game will come down to intangibles. "Whoever we play, I do not think it will be about systems. It will be who works harder, and who wants it more."
Minnesota will need to win two games this weekend in order to hoist the Broadmoor Trophy for the fist time since 2007. "Our goal, like every team here, is to be playing on Saturday night," Lucia said. "I think our guys are real excited to head down (to the Xcel Energy Center) this weekend."
Players and coaches were cautious not to put too much emphasis on the results this weekend, with an eye towards the NCAA tournament. Coach Lucia mentioned he might use the games in St. Paul to tweak lines in order to find the best combinations for national postseason. Minnesota hopes to use the WCHA Final Five as a springboard the NCAA tournament. "Whoever wins the (WCHA Final Five) will have great confidence going towards the NCAAs and that is what you are looking for at this time," forward Kyle Rau said.
It will certainly be an exciting weekend for the fans. The Gophers play in the semifinals Friday night a 7:00 p.m. at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn. The game can be seen on FOX Sports North, and it can be heard on 1500 ESPN.
-Story By Minnesota Communications Intern Josh Brennock