The Gophers will be back inside the friendly confines of Mariucci Arena this weekend when they host No. 10/11 Michigan. Coach Don Lucia and members of the team met with the media Wednesday afternoon to discuss the clash with another one of college hockey's iconic programs.
Both teams will be hungry to reverse poor results from the past weekend. The Gophers were swept at Wisconsin for the first time since 1999 and Wolverines suffered a surprising 4-0 loss at Penn State. Minnesota knows their biggest problem is a lack of goal scoring.
"It is not easy to score goals and it gets harder as the second half wears on," Lucia said. "We did a lot of things well over the course of the (Wisconsin) series. Hopefully, we will continue to do those."
The low goal totals have become a worrying trend for Minnesota. The Gophers have scored just one goal in four of their last eight games. "We have had plenty of opportunities. We just have to bear down and score," defenseman Brady Skjei said.
Defenseman Justin Holl is excited to put last weekend's disappointment in the rear-view mirror and face the challenge a program like Michigan presents. "I think we would rather have it this way instead of playing a softer team. I think is good that we play a tough team and test ourselves right away."
Minnesota has squared off with Michigan 259 times over the years, but not since 2010 when the Gophers captured a 3-1 victory. Fans can expect up-tempo games and lots of transition opportunities. "Michigan is like us. They might not have a dominate offensive player, but they have three lines that can score, a mobile defense, and a goaltender that is playing very well," Lucia said.
As we witness the beginning Big Ten hockey conference, there is a desire to see old rivalries get reinvigorated. The Minnesota-Michigan rivalry is one of those. "I think it will become a really good rivalry," Lucia said. "We had some big games with them and they have had great teams year in and year out. I think this is next rivalry to really ramp up in the Big Ten for us." With four of the Gophers' last eight regular season games against the Maize and Blue there is an expectation to see the rivalry flourish in the near future.
Minnesota goes back to a traditional Friday-Saturday series against the Wolverines. Friday's contest begins at 8 p.m. CT and air live on the Big Ten Network. Saturday's game starts at 7 p.m. CT and can be seen on Fox Sports North. Both games can be heard on 1500 ESPN with Wally Shaver and Frank Mazzocco.
Story by University of Minnesota Communications Intern Josh Brennock