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
The Gophers will be in Madison later this week to conclude their regular-season series with the Badgers. Minnesota swept Wisconsin at Mariucci Arena back in November. Coach Don Lucia and members of the team met with the media Tuesday afternoon to preview the Boarder Battle.
Games against Wisconsin are traditionally tight, defensive affairs.
"We know that we are going to have to win a 2-1 or 3-1 type of game," Lucia said. "For us to be effective this is the type of weekend where Hudson Fasching and Seth Ambroz, guys who are big and strong around the net, need to score some goals."
The Badgers have made good use of home ice this season, compiling a 13-2-1 record. "It is a good environment for our guys to play in. It will be especially good for our young guys to be put in that environment," Lucia said. The Gophers have won at least one game at the Kohl Center every season since 2007-08.
Captain Nate Condon will play collegiate hockey in Madison for the last time this weekend. He will do so in front of an estimated 20 family members. "It is always fun to go back and play because a bunch of my family is there," Condon said. "(Current Badgers) are the guys I played with in youth hockey, so it has always been fun to play against them."
Seth Ambroz scored four goals against the Badgers during the November series, including both game winners. "The biggest thing is that the team comes out with a pair of wins. Hopefully, I can contribute as much as possible and continue being successful against Wisconsin," Ambroz said. "Everything is just a little bit more important when it is a rivalry,"
Goaltender Adam Wilcox posted his sixth career shutout on Saturday against Michigan State. "Adam is pretty consistent. I think that is the one trait I like most about him," Lucia said. Wilcox's play over the past couple of weeks has allowed the Gophers to win games despite the offense's lack of rhythm. "Wilcox has been playing really well and that is great, but we do have to find our game offensively and put a few more goals in," Ambroz said.
The injury report remains unchanged from last week. Minnesota will be without the services of Tom Serratore and Michael Brodzinski, but everyone else is available for the trip to Madison.
The schedule throws another curveball at the Gophers this week with games on Thursday and Friday. Thursday's action gets underway at 7:30 p.m. CT and Friday's contest will begin at 8 p.m. CT. The Big Ten Network will broadcast both games live. Fans can listen to Wally Shaver and Frank Mazzocco call the games on 1500 ESPN.
Story by University of Minnesota Communications Intern Josh Brennock
Nate Condon with the Mariucci-Bessone Trophy.
The No. 1 Gophers will welcome Michigan State to Mariucci Arena this weekend for a two-game set. The series kicks off Minnesota's 12-game stretch against Big Ten opponents to close out the regular season. Select Gopher players and head coach Don Lucia met with the media Wednesday afternoon to discuss the showdown with the Spartans and events of the past couple weeks.
The Gophers took four of a possible six points from the Spartans during a road trip in early December.
"They are a good defensive team. (Goalie Jake Hildebrand) is very good," coach Lucia said. The Spartans dropped a pair of game last weekend to their archrival Michigan.
The last three weeks offered unique quirks with a Monday game, an outdoor game, and a trophy.
"It was pretty crazy. It was a lot of new experiences, even for the guys who have been here for a few years," said forward Travis Boyd. "It was fun, but at the same time it was a little hectic."
This week's return to Mariucci means the Gophers can fall back into a routine. Minnesota recently completed a stretch of four games at four different venues.
"It is good to be at home again. We are looking forward to the Big Ten rivalries picking up again," said defenseman Mike Reilly.
The non-conference portion of the Gophers schedule is now complete with Minnesota posting an 11-2-3 record out of conference. The Gophers will face strictly Big Ten opposition prior to the NCAA postseason.
"(The schedule) is starting to ramp up now," Lucia said. "We have not seen Michigan yet, we have to go to Madison, and we have a very difficult finish at Ohio State and at Michigan."
Minnesota is currently riding a 12-game unbeaten streak -- the longest active unbeaten streak in the nation -- but the players know their recent hockey hasn't been their best.
"We have to give a
ton of credit to Adam Wilcox for this past weekend," Reilly said. "We have to
pick it up (going forward) and start focusing a little bit better."
The Gophers will be forced to play with five defensemen on Friday. Michael Brodzinski will be out a few weeks with a lower-body injury and Ben Marshall must miss out on Friday's action after receiving his third game misconduct of the year in the title tilt of the North Star College Cup. Marshall is eligible to return to the Gopher lineup on Saturday. Tom Serratore also sustained a lower-body injury on Saturday and will be sidelined a few weeks.
Friday's puck drop is at 8 p.m. CT and will be shown live on BTN. Saturday's contest begins at 7 p.m. CT and will be shown live on FSN Plus. Fans can listen to Wally Shaver and Frank Mazzocco call both games this weekend on 1500 ESPN.
-Story by University of Minnesota Communications Intern Josh Brennock
Ryan Stoa with the Colorado Avalanche.