Gophers Set for 35th NCAA Tournament
March 26, 2014
The No. 1/2 Minnesota men's hockey program makes its 35th appearance in the NCAA tournament this weekend as the host insitution of the NCAA West Regional at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. The Gophers kick off the national tournament with the first-ever meeting against Robert Morris on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. CT (ESPN2). Notre Dame and St. Cloud State follow in the second semifinal at 8:00 p.m. (ESPNU) while the NCAA West Regional championship game is set for Sunday at 6:30 p.m. (ESPNU).
In the NCAA Tournament
Minnesota is 53-35 (.598) all-time in the NCAA tournament, now with 35 all-time appearances and 20 Frozen Four berths. The Gophers have won five national titles including two under Don Lucia (1974, 1976, 1979, 2002, 2003).
Against the Field
The Gophers have only played one NCAA tournament game against the 2014 NCAA West Regional Field -- a 5-2 win over Notre Dame in the first round of the 2004 NCAA Midwest Regional in Grand Rapids, Mich. Minnesota has never met Robert Morris while the Maroon & Gold are 24-13-3 all-time against Notre Dame and 53-28-12 all-time against St. Cloud State.
Big Ten Champions
Kyle Rau scored 2:44 into overtime on Friday to give Minnesota a 3-2 victory and capture the inaugural Big Ten regular-season championship. Justin Kloos and Brady Skjei also tallied for Minnesota. For the first time in program history, the Gophers have now won three-straight conference regular-season titles while the Minnesota senior class is the first in program history to earn three conference titles. Minnesota won back-to-back MacNaughton Cups as WCHA regular-season champions in 2012 and 2013.
Big Ten Awards
The Big Ten handed out its annual awards earlier this week with the top-ranked Gophers taking home four major awards and four all-conference honors. Adam Wilcox was named the Big Ten Player of the Year, Big Ten Goaltender of the Year and First Team All-Big Ten while Mike Reilly joined him as First Team All-Big Ten and was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. Kyle Rau was named Second Team All-Big Ten, and Hudson Fasching was named to the All-Big Ten Freshman Team. Don Lucia was named the Big Ten Coach of the Year after guiding the team to the regular-season title. Sam Warning, Ben Marshall, Brady Skjei and Fasching also represented the Gophers with All-Big Ten Honorable Mention accolades while Nate Condon was honored as a Big Ten Sportsmanship Award winner.
Fasching Paces Big Ten Rookies
Hudson Fasching leads all Big Ten rookies with 12 goals this season and ranks second in points scored by conference newcomers with 28. Originally drafted by Los Angeles in the fourth round (118th overall) of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, Fasching's rights were traded to Buffalo at the NHL trade deadline this season.
At Home at Xcel Energy Center
The Golden Gophers are 21-13-0 all-time at Xcel Energy Center heading into the weekend. This weekend's regional marks the third time the venue has hosted the event (2010, 2012). The Gophers won the 2012 NCAA West Regional and advanced to the Frozen Four with wins over Boston University (7-3) and North Dakota (5-2). Xcel Energy Center will also host the 2016 NCAA West Regional as well as the 2018 NCAA Men's Frozen Four.
Nate Condon has skated in 154 consecutive games for Minnesota entering the weekend and is the program's most veteran player at 155 games (38-60--98). Condon has only missed one game in his four years with the program -- Oct. 9, 2010 against UMass (the second game of his freshman season). Condon needs just two points to reach the 100-career point milestone.
Minnesota is the least penalized team in the Big Ten, averaging just 9.1 penalty minutes per game. In fact, the Gophers rank 54th out of 59 team in the NCAA this season in penalty minutes per game.
There's No Place Like Home
The 2013-14 season marks the 20th campaign in which the Gophers have called Mariucci Arena home. The facility was officially opened on Aug. 21, 1993 with an alumni game. Since opening Mariucci Arena, Minnesota is 290-113-45 (.696) on home ice. Since the start of the 2011-12 season, the Gophers are 48-10-6 (.790) on home ice including an 15-1-3 (.853) mark this year (Minnesota's outdoor game at TCF Bank Stadium was technically scored as a home game, but does not factor into this record). The one loss at Mariucci Arena this season marks the fewest losses at the venue in its 20-year history.
The Gophers freshman class has contributed 51 goals this season -- the most of any rookie class in the NCAA this season. The Minnesota newcomers have tallied .405 of the team's 126 goals this season and are averaging 1.38 goals per game -- the highest ratio of any freshman class in the nation this year.
Wilcox Stands Out in Net
Sophomore Adam Wilcox is a nominee for the Hobey Baker Award and the new Mike Richter Award (given to the nation's top goaltender) as well as an All-America candidate. In 73 career games played, Wilcox has posted a 48-13-11 overall record. Out of those games, 33 have been played against nationally ranked foes with the sophomore netminder recording a 20-10-3 record against ranked teams. Wilcox (23-4-6) is third in the nation with 23 wins this season, third nationally in goals against average at 1.91 and second nationally in save percentage at .933.The sophomore leads the Big Ten in all three categories.
Best Offense is a Good Defense
Minnesota has given up an Big Ten-low 75 goals against this season and rank third nationally with an average of just 2.03 goals against per game (first in the Big Ten). Additionally, 25 of the Gophers' 126 goals this season have come from defensemen.