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The Gophers met with the media Wednesday ahead of this weekend's showdown with the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs.
Minnesota Duluth enters this weekend in the midst of a tailspin. Last Saturday's tie with Bemidji State represents the Bulldogs first point earned in seven league contests. Despite this, the Gophers are well aware of the dangers of playing in-state opponents.
"They have a lot of Minnesota kids, so it will be some of their biggest games of the year," forward Travis Boyd said. Head coach Don Lucia cautioned not to judge the Bulldogs on their record. "They have not scored on a consistent bases throughout their lineup, but their top end is very good. I think their team speed is as good as anybody."
With just three weeks left of the regular season, the Gophers still have work to do if they want to assure home-ice advantage in the first round of the WCHA playoffs. To do this, Minnesota must find consistency. "We have to put a good weekend together, and a good weekend is two nights, not just one," Boyd said.
Captain Zach Budish said the key to a good weekend comes before gametime. "We have had good weeks of practice leading up to Friday games, and we have won the last couple of Friday games. Saturday, maybe we haven't had the same intensity coming out or preparation during the day."
Minnesota players and staff had a chance to reflect on their
experience at the Hockey City Classic. Here are some thoughts:
Lucia - "I think it was a great experience for us. I think the players will remember it the rest of their lives. From our standpoint it was a positive experience, except for the score."
Budish -- "It was a once in a lifetime event. The people at the Hockey City Classic did a great job putting it on. It was a big stage for us and we had a blast. Obviously, coming out with a loss was not what we planned for."
Jake Parenteau -- "It was really cool, a once in a lifetime experience. I will cherish it for a long time."
Boyd -- "We were all in the moment. Playing on that stage is something no one has done on that big of a stage before."
Story by University of Minnesota Communications Intern Josh Brennock
"It was pretty exciting to be out there and see what kind of stadium they have," said Seth Helgeson. "It was a pretty fun time out there."
The Gophers collected a 3-2 victory in Madison against the Badgers.
Gophers Grab Game One
The Gophers kicked off the weekend with a big win in Madison by a score of 3-2. Minnesota now has lost only once in their last six contests at the Kohl Center against the Badgers. The Gophers pulled themselves to within three points of league-leading St. Cloud State and even with second-place North Dakota in the WCHA standings. Both St. Cloud State and North Dakota are idle this weekend, so the Gophers can make up more ground on Sunday during the OfficeMax Hockey City Classic at Soldier Field.
Power Play was Key
In a close game, special teams is always going to play a key role. Minnesota came into the game with a league-best mark of 25.2% on the power play. The percentage will only get better. All three goals for the Gophers came on the power play. Sam Warning scored late in the first period to tie the game at one on a juicy rebound. Nick Bjugstad scored late in the second period to give the Gophers a 2-1 lead with a blast from the point that clicked off the point. The Gophers final goal came in the third period when Seth Ambroz battled for space on top of the crease and slipped the puck past just over the line.
Got the Goaltending
Adam Wilcox has provided the Gophers with excellent goaltending all season and tonight was no different. On the road, in a hostile environment, Adam Wilcox made 28 saves. Wilcox flashed his patented glove early and often tonight. He also made a number of huge saves when Wisconsin pulled their goalie late in the game to get an extra attacker. The Badgers have now scored two goals or less in four straight games against the Gophers. Adam Wilcox was responsible for the last three games.
First Period Shot Barrage
Minnesota registered 20 shots in the first period. The period was more wide open and featured more chances for both sides than a typical matchup with the Badgers. The most important Gopher shot of the period came from Sam Warning. He evened the game with a power-play goal late in the period, cashing in a rebound from a good Ben Marshall shot. The Gophers had five shots on the late power play alone. The second and third periods were tighter checking as the neutral zone became harder to navigate.
Hockey City Classic is Next
This week, Minnesota coaches and players all emphasized the
importance of tonight's game. Now, with the battle in Madison over, everyone can
turn their attention to Sunday's OfficeMax Hockey City Classic. The Gophers
will bus down to Chicago before having a practice on Soldier Field at 4:45 p.m.
Saturday. The Maroon & Gold will play their first outdoor game in the
modern era against the Badgers at 3:30 p.m. Sunday afternoon. The game can be
seen on BTN.
Story Written by University of Minnesota Student Intern Josh Brennock