Members of the Minnesota men's hockey team met with the media ahead of this weekend's WCHA Final Five at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn. Based on earning a share of the MacNaughton Cup and the tournament's No. 2-seed, the Gophers receive a bye and will first play in Friday night's semifinal against either North Dakota or Colorado College.
The players are looking forward to participating in the program's last WCHA Final Five before leaving to join the new Big Ten Hockey Conference next season. "It is one of the more fun tournaments of the year. We know that our fan base will be behind us and whoever we play will have a lot of fans there as well," forward Erik Haula said.
The Gophers opponent on Friday night will be determined by Thursday night's quarterfinal between North Dakota and Colorado College. Regardless of the opponent, head coach Don Lucia believes a quick start will be key, "I think the first period is very important. I think the team who played the day before has an advantage early in the game. Hopefully, we have an advantage as the game goes on because we are rested."
Minnesota is very familiar with both North Dakota and Colorado College. Erik Haula thinks the semifinal game will come down to intangibles. "Whoever we play, I do not think it will be about systems. It will be who works harder, and who wants it more."
Minnesota will need to win two games this weekend in order to hoist the Broadmoor Trophy for the fist time since 2007. "Our goal, like every team here, is to be playing on Saturday night," Lucia said. "I think our guys are real excited to head down (to the Xcel Energy Center) this weekend."
Players and coaches were cautious not to put too much emphasis on the results this weekend, with an eye towards the NCAA tournament. Coach Lucia mentioned he might use the games in St. Paul to tweak lines in order to find the best combinations for national postseason. Minnesota hopes to use the WCHA Final Five as a springboard the NCAA tournament. "Whoever wins the (WCHA Final Five) will have great confidence going towards the NCAAs and that is what you are looking for at this time," forward Kyle Rau said.
It will certainly be an exciting weekend for the fans. The Gophers play in the semifinals Friday night a 7:00 p.m. at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn. The game can be seen on FOX Sports North, and it can be heard on 1500 ESPN.
-Story By Minnesota Communications Intern Josh Brennock
Minnesota came from behind to beat Bemidji State, 4-3.
The Gophers won game two of the WCHA playoff series against Bemidji State by a score of 4-3 to win the series. It was very entertaining game. Bemidji State played much better tonight than last night, generated twice the number of shots in regulation. The Gophers came back from a 3-1 deficit to earn victory. Ben Marshall scored the winning goal with 52 seconds left in regulation on a great individual effort. He navigated past the Bemidji State defense and beat Bemidji State goaltender Andrew Walsh. Minnesota advances to the WCHA Final Five next Friday in St. Paul.
Gophers Fight Back
Minnesota trailed by two goals on two separate occasions tonight, forcing the Gophers to play from behind all night. Nick Bjugstad scored another power play goal for Minnesota 15:33 into the second period to cut Bemidji State's first two-goal lead to one. The Beavers wasted no time restoring the two-goal margin. Jeff Jubinville scored just 16 seconds after Bjugstad's tally. Minnesota continued to push back. Nate Schmidt's shot hit Nate Condon in front of the net and squeaked through the pads of Walsh and over the line right before the second intermission. The Gophers tied the game in the third period courtesy of A.J. Michaelson, and Ben Marshall did the honors of finishing off the Beavers and completing the comeback with 52 seconds left in regulation.
The Walsh Story
For much of the weekend, Bemidji State goaltender Andrew Walsh was the story. He made 49 saves last night. Tonight, he held the off the Gophers for nearly two periods. The Gophers did not solve Walsh until 15:33 into the second period. A goal by Nate Condon late in the second period that squeaked through Walsh seemed to break his momentum. The Gophers scored two more goals in the third period to win the game. In total Walsh made 86 saves this weekend. He was clearly the brightest Beaver of the series. In the end, the Gophers simply had too much firepower.
Final Five is Next
Minnesota moves on to next week's WCHA Final Five at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. The Gophers will play Friday night in the semifinals against an opponent to be determined. The Gophers will be making their second-straight appearance in the WCHA Final Five after missing the event the previous two seasons. Minnesota will need to win two games next week in order to capture their first Broadmoor Trophy since 2007.
Story by Minnesota Communications Student Intern Josh Brennock
Thoughts from Minnesota's 2-1 overtime win against Bemidji State
Minnesota Takes Game One
Minnesota captured game one of the WCHA playoff series tonight at Mariucci Arena by a score of 2-1 in overtime. Kyle Rau scored the winning goal. Minnesota recorded 51 shots on goal, dominating the shot counter in every period of the game. Bemidji State's goalie Andrew Walsh was spectacular, turning aside 49 Gopher shots and giving time for the Beavers to find the equalizer with just 38 seconds left in the third period. Minnesota goalie Adam Wilcox made plenty of great saves, including two breakaways in regulation and a big kick save in overtime.
Kyle Rau scored the game-winning goal 13:18 into the first period of overtime. The goal came by way of a Nick Bjugstad face off win. Off the draw, the puck came to Christian Isackson who quickly got the puck back to the point for Nate Schmidt. Schmidt's shot was blocked, but it came right to Rau. Kyle made no mistake in putting the puck past Andrew Walsh to win the game for the Gophers. It was the Gophers first postseason game to go to overtime since 2008. That year, the Gophers played four overtime games in the WCHA playoffs alone. The goal was Rau's seventh game-winning goal of the season.
Minnesota Gets in Front
Minnesota broke the scoreless tie 6:56 into the second period. Ben Marshall skated into a seam right in the slot in front of Andrew Walsh. He was set up by a neat feed from Kyle Rau. Rau was below the goal line and found Marshall after chasing down a puck he dumped in and found enough space to get the puck out to the slot. Both Ben Marshall and Kyle Rau had successful weekends at Bemidji last week. In two games, Ben Marshall picked up a goal and an assist. Kyle Rau had three assists up in Bemidji. The goal would hold up until 38 seconds left in the third period when Brance Orban tied the score on the Beavers 11th shot of the game.
Gophers Control First Period, Lack Scoring Touch
The Gophers dominated most the first period on the shot counter. After 20 minutes, Minnesota led in shots 14-3. Captain Zach Budish was the most active Gopher around the net. He registered a team-high three shots, matching Bemidji State as a team, in the period. Nate Schmidt displayed his skill by creating good opportunities from the point and using his wheels to go coast-to-coast with the puck. Despite the territorial edge, the Gophers were unable to solve Bemidji goaltender Andrew Walsh. The Gophers dominance would continue throughout the whole game.
Minnesota will attempt to sweep the series and advance to the WCHA Final Five tomorrow night. Sweeps have not come easy for the Gophers at Mariucci Arena this season. Minnesota's only home sweep this season came against Alaska Anchorage in early January. The Gophers now have won three consecutive playoff games at Mariucci, including last year's sweep of Alaska Anchorage.
Minnesota head coach Don Lucia on Boston University head coach Jack Parker (On Monday, Parker announced that the 2012-13 season will be his last at the reigns of the program after 40 years as head coach of the Terriers):
"When you think of BU hockey, you think of Jack Parker. Forty years with one school will never happen again," Lucia said. "Jack is someone who I have respected and looked up to since I started coaching, and he's had a phenomenal career with the program."