This weekend Minnesota will play its' first ever Big Ten-road series when it travels to East Lansing, Mich., to take on the Michigan State Spartans. On Wednesday, players and coaches met with the media to discuss the team's final series of 2013 and the events of the previous week.
Michigan State enters this weekend with a record of 5-7-0, but Minnesota players and coaches caution that the Spartans are better than their record indicates.
"I think they are an improving team," Minnesota head coach Don Lucia said. "When the year began a couple of their key guys were out due to surgery, in John Deager and Matt Berry. They are just starting to play again, and I think that is why you saw them win a couple of games this weekend."
The Spartans swept Princeton by scores of 4-1 and 8-2.
Seth Ambroz was named the Big Ten's First Star of the week after he tallied four goals against Wisconsin, including the game-winning goal late in Saturday's contest.
"It was probably the biggest goal I have scored so
far as a Gopher," Ambroz said. "It was against Wisconsin and the game winner."
Ambroz has become a vocal leader on the team, a role coach Lucia would not have initially pegged him for.
"I don't know if I have every been around a player who has grown so much as a person than Seth has from when I first met him at age 15 to where he is today."
Seth says he likes to make sure his teammates are having fun on and off the ice.
"We have a young team with a lot of quiet guys. I like to joke around and get them smiling."
Earlier Wednesday, USA Hockey announced their preliminary roster for the 2014 World Junior Championship. Lucia will be the head coach of this year's American entrant, who will look to repeat as gold medalists.
"We are excited about our group. I thought we had a good summer and improved a lot over the course of the evaluation camp in Lake Placid."
Two of the players that make up Lucia's American forces are Gopher teammates Hudson Fasching and Brady Skjei. Fasching is currently tied for the freshman scoring lead in the Big Ten with 14 points.
"With the type of first half he has had offensively, he really earned his way on the team," Lucia said. "He put himself in good position this summer and continued to elevate his play during the course of the fall."
Brady Skjei was one of the last cuts off last year's American roster. He is eager to write a different script this year.
"I definitely have a chip on my shoulder," Skjei said. "Anytime you put on the USA jersey it is pretty special, but you watch the U-20s on TV over Christmas. It is definitely something you look forward to your whole life."
Coach Lucia is familiar with Skjei's game and has a good idea about the role he will play for the USA. "He will have to play in a shutdown-type role with the team and be a good penalty killer."
This week's games at Michigan State will take place Friday night at 6:00 p.m. CT, and Saturday afternoon at 3:00 p.m. CT. Friday's game will be shown live on FSN Plus and Saturday's rematch will be live on Fox Sports North.
Story by University of Minnesota Communications Intern Josh Brennock