The Gophers will close out the regular season with a trip this weekend to Yost Ice Arena in Ann Arbor, Mich., to take on the No. 13 Michigan Wolverines. Wednesday afternoon, coach Don Lucia and members of the team met with the media to discuss the opportunity in front of them.
Players and coaches have made a point all season not to focus on the Big Ten standings, but now the title is within their grasps. "It is a goal when the year begins to put yourself in the position to [win the regular-season championship,]" Lucia said. "We have had a great regular season and played very consistently from start to finish. Now, we have to do our job and try to get a win on the road this weekend."
The players want to go down as the first team to be Big Ten champions. "It would be a great start to our future in the Big Ten," defensemen Brady Skjei said.
With the Big Ten Tournament a week away, the team wants to build good postseason habits against the Wolverines. "I think the playoff mentality really kicked in last week," junior forward Travis Boyd said. "I think we learn a pretty good lesson [last Saturday] about what it takes to win at this time of year."
This is the Gophers first trip to Yost Ice Arena since 2009. "There is not a more difficult place to play in college hockey than Yost," Lucia said.
Michigan has lost just two games on home ice this season, but Minnesota is embracing the late-season challenge. "The tempo is going to be really high against Michigan. If we make a mistake, we are going to pay. These are important lessons this time a year as we head into the playoffs," Lucia said.
Travis Boyd is one of three current Gophers, with Brady Skjei and Hudson Fasching, who have experience playing at Yost as part of the National Team Development Program. However, entering Yost as a conference rival is an entirely different beast. "We were just a bunch of 17-year-old kids trying to go out and play," Boyd said.
Hudson Fasching is less than a year removed from his time in Ann Arbor and will face many of his former National Team Development Program teammates. "There will probably be some chirping going around and I am ready for that," Fasching said.
A trip back to the eastern time zone this week means the games begin earlier than normal. Friday's puck drop takes place at 5:30 p.m. CT and can be seen on ESPNews. Saturday's regular-season finale begins at 6:00 p.m. CT and can be seen on the Big Ten Network. Fans can listen to both games on 1500 ESPN with Wally Shaver and Frank Mazzocco.
-Story by University of Minnesota Communications In