The University of Minnesota will make its 21st Frozen Four appearance when it squares off with North Dakota April 10 in Philadelphia. Coach Don Lucia and select players met with the local media to discuss the NCAA West Regional and what waits ahead at the Frozen Four.
The national semifinal will be the 291th meeting between Minnesota and North Dakota. "I love playing North Dakota," senior forward Nate Condon said. "Everyone knows who North Dakota is. Everyone has someone they grew up playing with or against that they want to beat."
Lucia is doing his best to downplay the fact that the Gophers await their longtime arch-rival. "It is a national semifinal. Who you play is not as important as playing well."
The Gophers earned the right to go to Philadelphia by defeating Robert Morris, 7-3, and St. Cloud State, 4-0, at the NCAA West Regional.
"I thought last weekend was the best two games we have played all year," goaltender and Mike Richter Award finalist Adam Wilcox said. "It is good to be hitting our stride this time of year."
A big component of the Gophers success at the regional was the ability for the defense to stymie St. Cloud State's quality forwards.
"I think the key for us is the emergence of Mike Reilly and Brady Skjei," coach Lucia said. "Both those guys have really improved from last year."
Co-captain Nate Condon sparked the Gophers at the regional by scoring the team's first goal against Robert Morris and collecting four points on the weekend. He spoke about the seeds for this team's success being planted by former captain - and Condon's former roommate -- Taylor Matson.
"One of the things he taught me is how hard you have to work to get to that next level."
As the team begins to focus on their trip to Pennsylvania, Lucia wants to make sure the players are primed for a positive experience.
"It never gets old playing in the Frozen Four. There is no guarantee that any of our guys will get an opportunity to do this again," Lucia said. "The most important thing is to play well. The disappointment comes if the team does not play the way they are capable of."
The other national semifinal pits Boston College against Union College. It will be just the second all-time meeting between the Eagles and Dutchmen.
The Gophers will hit the ice against North Dakota on Thursday April 10 at 7:30 p.m. CT. The game will be shown live on ESPN2 and can be heard on 1500 ESPN. The national championship game takes place Saturday April 12 at 6:30 p.m. CT on ESPN.
"It is going to be awesome to play [North Dakota]," Wilcox said. "It is a huge rivalry game and there is not a better time to have it than on the big stage."
-Story written by Josh Brennock