Gophers Head to Grand Rapids for NCAA Tournament
March 27, 2013
The Co-MacNaughton Cup champion Minnesota men's hockey team enters the NCAA tournament with a 26-8-5 overall record. The Gophers are the No. 2 overall seed and the top seed in the NCAA West Regional this weekend in Grand Rapids, Mich. Minnesota will open the NCAA tournament on Friday, March 29 at 1 p.m. CT against four seed Yale followed by North Dakota and Niagara at 4:30 p.m. The semifinal winners will play at 3 p.m. on Saturday, March 30 with the winner advancing the NCAA Frozen Four on April 11-13 in Pittsburgh, Pa. Van Andel Arena will host the NCAA West Regional with all three games being televised on ESPNU.
In The Tournament
Minnesota will play in the NCAA tournament for the 34th time in program history this weekend when the Gophers face Yale on Friday. The Gophers are 52-34 (.604) in 86 all-time NCAA tournament games and have advanced to 20 Frozen Fours including last year's appearance in Tampa. Minnesota has won five NCAA championships in school history, doing so in 1974-76-79-2002-03.
This weekend's matchups marks the first-ever NCAA postseason meeting between Minnesota and Yale while the Gophers boast a 13-6-0 overall record against the Bulldogs in a series history that dates back to Dec. 21, 1934. Minnesota has won seven-straight games against Yale including the last meeting between the two programs -- a 7-2 Minnesota win on Dec. 27, 2002.
Minnesota has never taken on the Purple Eagles in NCAA action, but the team is 3-0-0 all-time against the Atlantic Hockey squad all-time including a 5-1 win on Dec. 30, 2011.
Facing North Dakota
Minnesota is 145-130-15 all-time against North Dakota and 2-2 against the team's WCHA rival in NCAA postseason play. Minnesota topped UND 5-2 in the 2012 NCAA West Regional final to advance to the Frozen Four last year while the Gophers' first NCAA playoff win over North Dakota came in the 1979 NCAA championship game -- a 4-3 win for the Maroon and Gold.
In The Polls
The 26-8-5 Gophers enter the weekend tied for first (Quinnipiac) in this week's USCHO.com poll and ranked second in the current USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll. Minnesota has been ranked in the top five of both polls for the entire 2012-13 season including 11 weeks as the No. 1 team in the nation by at least one of the polls. The Gophers entered the season ranked second in the NCAA in the USCHO poll and first in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll.
WCHA Final Five Recap
Minnesota closed out the last WCHA Final Five in program history with a 2-0 loss to Colorado College last Friday. The shutout marked just the second time this season that the Gophers were kept out of the net by an opponent.
Coming Off A Loss
Minnesota, which has gone 7-0-0 after a loss this season, has not lost back-to-back games all season. The last Gophers squad to accomplish that feat was the 2003 national championship team. In fact, the 2002-03 season was Minnesota's second-straight season without suffering back-to-back losses as the Gophers went on to win their second-straight national title.
Minnesota had four players named to an All-Western Collegiate Hockey Association team this season. Junior defenseman Nate Schmidt was named to the All-WCHA First Team as the top scoring defenseman in the league this season while junior forward Erik Haula earned All-WCHA Second Team honors after leading the Gophers in scoring and ranking among the top point getters in the league this year. Junior forward Nick Bjugstad and freshman goalie Adam Wilcox were named All-WCHA Third Team honorees while the Gophers also placed 17 student-athletes on the 2012-13 All-WCHA Academic Team.
Haula Makes His Mark
If Minnesota's scoring ranks remain unchanged, junior Erik Haula will lead Minnesota in scoring for the second-straight year -- the first Gopher to do so since Thomas Vanek in 2002-2003 and 2003-04. Haula's 49 points (16 goals, 33 assists) this season match the junior's career high, set last year as a sophomore with the Maroon and Gold.
Wilcox Ties Rookie Record
Rookie netminder Adam Wilcox has started the last 36-straight games for Minnesota and picked up his 25th win of the season in the WCHA First Round to tie Kellen Briggs for the Minnesota rookie wins record. Wilcox (25-7-5), who ranks seventh in the nation with a goals against average of 1.85 and also has a .922 save percentage, is also on pace to compete for Minnesota single-season records for GAA and save percentage. Alex Kangas has both records for the Gophers at 1.98 GAA and a .930 save percentage -- both set in his freshman season with the Gophers (2007-08).
Roll With Rau
Seven of Kyle Rau's 15 goals this season have been game winners -- the most by any single player in the nation this year. Furthermore, Minnesota is 23-1-1 this season when the sophomore forward tallies a point. Only two Gophers have had more game-winning goals in a season than Rau -- Aaron Broten (10 in 1980-81) and Jeff Taffe (eight in 2001-02).
Minnesota earned a share of its second-straight MacNaughton Cup and its fourth WCHA regular-season championship in the last eight years. The Gophers rallied from a four-point deficit on March 2 to tie St. Cloud State atop the league standings for Minnesota's 14th conference regular-season championship. Also of note, the Gophers went the entire 2012-13 regular season without leading the WCHA until tying for the MacNaughton Cup on Saturday night in the regular-season finale.
Lucia and The MacNaughton Cup
This year's MacNaughton Cup marks Minnesota head coach Don Lucia's seventh career WCHA regular-season championship -- a conference record. Lucia has won four MacNaughton Cups with the Gophers, twice going back-to-back in 2005-06 and 2006-07 and again in 2011-12 and 2012-13. Lucia's also won three-straight regular-season league titles in his first three seasons with Colorado College (1993-94, 94-95, 95-96).