The 2013-14 Gopher hockey season commences this weekend as Minnesota hosts the 2013 Ice Breaker at Mariucci Arena. The Gophers will welcome Mercyhurst, New Hampshire, and Clarkson to the Twin Cities for the two-day tournament. Wednesday afternoon coach Don Lucia and members of the team met with the local media to discuss the opening weekend.
The Gophers will open with Mercyhurst on Friday night. The Lakers return a veteran group that includes three players who registered over 30 points last season. "They like to get up and down the rink. They are an older team like most of the teams from (Atlantic Hockey) are. It will be a real good challenge for our young guys," Lucia said.
Speaking of the young guys, the freshman got their first taste of collegiate play last weekend against Lethbridge. Overall, coach Lucia liked what he saw. "(The freshmen) did a good job. I was happy, I think some returning players improved from where they were a year ago and that is a real positive."
The influx of talented freshmen gives the coaching staff plenty of options for setting the lineup. "When I look at our team, I don't see a 25-goal scorer. However, I do see a lot of guys who have the potential to put the puck in the net," Lucia said. "We are balanced. I think we are a little deeper up front then we were a year ago. I think we can have four pretty balanced lines." While Lucia has some lines in mind, there is opportunity for players to take on large roles this season.
The players are aware that they cannot take any team lightly as the games begin to count this weekend. "(Mercyhurst) was picked to win their league. You definitely can't look past them. They are a good team. There a three solid teams coming in this weekend, so it will be fun to see where we are at," forward Seth Ambroz said.
With the season just 48 hours away there was a general feeling of excitement in the locker room . "We have been waiting for a long time. We have been working out all summer while taking classes. It is nice it is only two days away," defenseman Brady Skjei said.
Minnesota will first hit the ice at 7:10 p.m. CT on Friday night against Mercyhurst. Earlier on Friday, New Hampshire will square off with Clarkson. The two winners will battle for the championship Saturday evening at 7:00 p.m., with the losers meeting at 4:00 p.m. on Saturday. Both Gopher games can be heard on 1500 ESPN. The FOX Sports North network will broadcast both Gopher games this weekend.
-Story By University of Minnesota Communications Intern Josh Brennock