Friday, March 8 - 3:00 p.m.
Minnesota suffered a tough loss to Ohio State on Thursday night, but the Big Ten Tournament still provided a chance for the team, fans and former players to connect. Some former Gophers traveled to Hoffman Estates to see their old team play. Zoe Harper, Kristen Dockery and China Antoine all met up to watch some basketball and spend the weekend together. Brittany McCoy was also in attendance.
Antoine was one of the former Gophers in attendance.
Harper plays professional basketball in Australia and works for a logistics company, Dockery works at a fitness club, and Antoine works in corporate fitness. All three visited our hotel after the game on Thursday.
Before they had an opportunity to reconnect with former Gophers, the current Gophers had a game to play. It was pretty quiet when we returned to Sears Centre, as the arena had cleared out after the second game of the day. It started getting louder as tipoff approached.
The Minnesota pep band, cheerleaders and Goldy all traveled to the tournament to help encourage the Gophers. Family, friends and loyal fans formed a loud cheering section behind the Minnesota bench. A Gopher pep band member even won the halftime "Simon says" competition.
After the Buckeyes had won the game, we all had dinner back at the hotel. It was nice to be able to sleep another night in Hoffman Estates and fly back to Minneapolis in the morning. We got back safely on Friday afternoon. Thanks to everyone who supported the team on this road trip.
Thursday, March 7 - 1:15 p.m.
Game day has arrived for the Gophers at the Big Ten Tournament. After a delicious breakfast this morning, the Gophers had a walk-through to go over some last preparations for Ohio State. Overall, it was a relaxing morning at the hotel.
Loberg is ready for her final Big Ten Tournament.
Most of the travel party loaded the bus to take a first look at the inside of the Sears Centre. We arrived before the first game, Iowa vs. Northwestern, tipped off. The Sears Centre is a relatively new multi-purpose facility. Its other uses include indoor football and soccer. Based on our walk to our seats for the first game, it seemed like the concourses were nice and wide for the fans.
We watched most of the first half of the game before heading back out to the bus. Iowa's pep band and mascot, who were close to where we sat, also provided some entertainment.
This will be the last Big Ten Tournament in a Gopher uniform for Minnesota seniors Katie Loberg and Leah Cotton. Loberg has liked her stay in Hoffman Estates so far, and is ready to get on the court.
"I'm pretty excited for this," Loberg said. "You kind of get this new spark of energy whenever the Big Ten Tournament rolls around. I'm wide awake and ready to win."
The Gophers have beaten Ohio State twice this season and will try to make it a three-peat tonight in the 8-seed vs. 9-seed game. The winner will face 1-seed Penn State tomorrow. Tonight's game will appear on BTN at 6 p.m. CT.
Wednesday, March 6 - 9:30 p.m.
As the Big Ten Tournament slogan says, "March is on." One of the most fun sports months of the year has begun. The Minnesota women's basketball team is part of the excitement, with its first conference tournament game against Ohio State at 6 p.m. tomorrow.
Banham and the Gophers arrived in Hoffman Estates today.
The Golden Gophers arrived in Hoffman Estates, Ill., Wednesday evening. A travel party of players, coaches and team and department staff (including athletics director Norwood Teague) caught a chartered flight to Midway Airport this afternoon. After a nice short plane trip, we bused to our hotel. We passed the Sears Centre, which is hosting the tournament, on the way.
A few other teams are staying in the same hotel, and Big Ten school balloons and banners adorn the lobby area. Our room keys even have the Big Ten Tournament logo on them.
After the team meal and film session, Rachel Banham had a chance to reunite with one of her former teammates from Lakeville North High School, Cassie Rochel. Rochel is a junior for the Wisconsin Badgers, who are staying in the same hotel. The two met in the lobby to catch up.
"I'm glad that we're able to be with them, especially because there are only three teams here," Banham said. "We were texting all day wanting to meet up. I think it's fun that she's in this tournament so I can watch her and hope she does well, and just be around her again."
Wisconsin is on the opposite side of the bracket from Minnesota, so the high school teammates would both need to make the title game to face each other again this season. Right now, the Gophers' focus is on tomorrow night's game against Ohio State.
"I think we're all really pumped," Banham. "It's going to be a big game tomorrow. We've beaten them twice. It's hard to beat a team three times. They know what to expect, and we know how they play. I think we're all really prepared and we're ready just to get out there tomorrow and play."
Minnesota closes out the regular season with a trip to Bemidji State to take on the Beavers. Members of the team met with the media Wednesday to discuss the key points of this weekend.
The Gophers enter the weekend with a realistic opportunity to claim the their second-straight MacNaughton Cup. They sit just two points behind league-leader St. Cloud State, but they are more focused on rounding their own game into shape for the postseason.
"We want to play well. We do not control whether we get a piece of (the MacNaughton Cup). You certainly don't want to leave points on the table. Our focus is playing well on Friday night and see where we are at," head coach Don Lucia said.
Forward Nate Condon added, "It is about getting our game going and playing up to the level we can."
The WCHA standings are historically tight heading into the
final weekend. Minnesota can still finish anywhere from first to seventh in the
The WCHA standings are historically tight heading into the final weekend. Minnesota can still finish anywhere from first to seventh in the conference.
"It is the most dramatic in my 20 years in the WCHA," Lucia said. "Like many people have said, this is probably the way it should be in the final year of the conference configuration the way it is."
Bemidji State plays a style focused on keeping the puck along the boards and chipping the puck off the glass when possible. It can be frustrating to play against for a team predicated on speed and skill, like the Gophers.
"The most important thing for us is we have to be patient," Lucia said.
The team had a disappointing effort last Friday night against Denver. The team knows they will have to be better, "I think it was a good lesson for us," Justin Holl said. " I think we were more ready to play on Saturday, and it showed what we can do when we are engaged." It is on the players to perform at the level they are capable of.
"We do not want to play like we did last weekend. We know we let ourselves down," Condon said.
Friday night's game at the Sanford Center is at 7:30 p.m. and will be carried live on Fox Sports North. Saturday's regular-season finale is at 7:00 p.m. and can be seen on Fox Sports North Plus.
Story By University of Minnesota Communications Intern Josh Brennock
Can you believe it?! March Madness is already upon us, and with the Big Ten Women's Basketball Tournament just days away, Minnesota women's basketball head coach Pam Borton found a special way to get her team into the spirit of the season. She brought two people into practice that not only know what it takes to make it to the NCAA Final Four, but did so in a Golden Gopher uniform - Lindsay Whalen and Janel McCarville.
The two former Minnesota standouts will be reunited as teammates on the hardwood this summer for the Minnesota Lynx, but on Tuesday afternoon they were back together on the court at Williams Arena. The pair shared some words of wisdom with the Gophers prior to the start of practice, before giving them a few lessons on the court. The day's practice came to a close with Whalen and McCarville each sharing their most memorable experiences from their college days at Minnesota.
Not only was it great for the Gophers to have two of the top WNBA players in the country face-off with them in practice, but it motivated them knowing that Whalen and McCarville were in their same shoes just a few short years ago and changed the landscape of the Minnesota women's basketball program forever.
@ellariche you can be a beast when you want! Good practice!!! If you need anything, let me know. Keep working at do it @ B10 tourney!!!!-- Janel McCarville (@JanelMcCarville) March 5, 2013
(Video courtesy of GopherGridiron.com)
The Minnesota football team held its pro day this morning at the Gibson-Nagurski Football Complex. Representatives from 13 NFL teams were in the Twin Cities to watch the former Gophers workout.
Seniors from last year's team Michael Carter, Keanon Cooper, MarQueis Gray, Brandon Green, John Rabe, Mike Rallis, Spencer Reeves, Troy Stoudermire and Jordan Wettstein joined former Gophers and players from smaller schools in the workout.
The Gophers defeated the Pioneers 5-1 tonight.
Just a night after getting shutout for the first time in nearly two years, the Gophers responded by scoring five goals in defeating the Denver Pioneers. The win means Minnesota has not lost a weekend series all year. The win also ended a three-game losing streak to the Pioneers. The offense came alive in the third period. Nick Bjugstad's power-play goal kicked off a four-goal rush for the Gophers in the final frame. Adam Wilcox wrapped up a spectacular weekend by making 31 saves in net.
Second Period Ignites the Crowd
Despite 15 shots in the first period, the Gophers trailed by a goal heading into the second period. Zach Budish scored the equalizer for Minnesota 9:03 into the second period. The goal was of the greasy variety. Zach continued to whack at the puck on the edge of the crease while skaters from both sides and Denver goalie Sam Brittain were sprawled out on the ice. Zach was finally able to push the puck over the line. In the closing moments of the period, both teams had great chances to take the lead. Kyle Rau broke in all alone, but was denied by Brittain. At the other end of the ice, Wilcox made multiple 10-bell saves on breakaways. With all the action on the ice, the crowd reached a decibel level normally reserved for North Dakota games.
Power Back On Just In Time
Minnesota came into the weekend with the best power play in the country. However, last night the power play went dark. In five tries, the Gophers generated very little offense and gave up top-notch opportunities with the extra skater. Tonight, they converted only once in four opportunities, but It came at a critical time. Erik Haula set Nick Bjugstad up on a tee to blast home what would be the game-winning goal from the left circle 9:52 into the period. Power play success will be critical to the Gophers this postseason.
Third Period Worth the Wait
Minnesota generated just 10 shots in the third period, but four of them found the back of the net. Goals from Bjugstad, Holl, Warning, and an empty-netter from Budish made the final score look rather comfortable. Holl scored his second goal of the season. Warning showed great effort and speed all night. He ended the night with a +2 rating and two points. He also hit the pipe on another scoring chance. Erik Haula also had a strong night, posting three assists to earn the number-one star.
Seth Helgeson played his last regular-season game for the Maroon & Gold at Mariucci Arena tonight. There was a ceremony to honor Helgeson, the team's only senior, before the game. He collected an assist on Zach Budish's second goal tonight. In his four years in Minneapolis, Helgeson was rarely found on the score sheet, but his impact is certaintly felt by his teammates. Seth is admired for his toughness and character off the ice. Coach Lucia said earlier this week, "When you do not notice him, he is at his best." His point tonight was an added bonus. Helgeson has played in 144 games to this point for the Gophers.
Written By Minnesota Communications Intern Josh Brennock