Gophers captain Taylor Matson said on Sunday his team is focusing on Boston University.
What else could he say? BU is the next team the Gophers play. Lose and it is the last team the Gophers play this season.
But there is another team in the West Regional which will have thousands of fans at the Xcel Energy Center next weekend. And this team just embarrassed the Gophers. That should still sting.
North Dakota is the top seed in the West Regional. And a possible Gophers-Fighting Sioux rematch in the regional final certainly would be interesting.
(The NCAA won't permit North Dakota to use its nickname in the national tournament, or the players to wear jerseys with the traditioal American Indian head logo. But the NCAA has no control over sportswriters.)
With that background, here is Matson, shortly after the NCAA pairings were announced on Sunday morning:
"Everyone is excited to play Boston," Matson said. "We have always grown up, wanting to play Boston. We haven't played them for a really long time . We will just focus on that first game. And it is going to be exciting to be at the X also."
Yet, asked directly, he admits playing UND the second day of the regional would be swell, too.
"North Dakota is one of our huge rivals," Matson said. "We always look forward to playing them, just like we did playing them in the Final Five. It was a pretty exciting game. .. No one is better to play than North Dakota. We are just going to focus on Boston, but if North Dakota happens to win [its' ] game, and also us, it would be an entertaining game."
Actually, the Final Five semifinal between those two was only half an enterating game. Gophers fans were delighted with the first 30 minutes when the Gophers outshot UND 19-4 and took a 3-0 lead.
North Dakota fans reveled in the final 30 minutes when the shots were 24-6 and UND scored six unanswered goals. Perhaps John Harrington, former St. John's coach said it best. It was as if the players switched uniforms midway through the second period, he said. So dramatic was the change.
The final score was North Dakota 6, Gophers 3.
Can the Gophers recover from such a stunning loss?
Matson is sure they can. "One of the strength of our teams is, when we are faced with adversity, we seem to bounce back really well," he said. "It is a great thing for our team to learn from that lesson Friday night. Just come back this week, work really hard and get ready for [Saturday] night.
The Gophers are 8-3-1 the game after a loss/
Exactly what was the lesson learned? "You just got to be ready to play every single shift and every single period," Matson said. "We dominated North Dakota for the first two periods and took our foot off the pedal a little bit. For a championship team, you have to learn to keep that pedal down and keep going."
He said just being in the Final Five, for the first time since 2009, was beneficial "for a lot of the younger guys that haven't experienced that big atmosphere at Xcel.
"For me, I have been part of the high school tournaments, so I have been in front of that crowd. For a lot of those other guys, it will be a good learning experiende from last Friday to follow up this weekend."
TITLE GAME HARD TO WATCH
Matson said he had a difficult time watching the Final Five championship game. North Dakota beat Denver 4-0.
"I put it on for a little bit, but for the first five minutes I didn't really want to watch because I was kind of upset about our game," he said. "But it is always good to see North Dakota win. They are a great team. They have been really working hard this second half of the season. I know Denver played a lot of games. They played six games in two weeks [actually nine day], so they are pretty tired. It is good for North Dakota."
See Sioux nation, Matson is not a bad guy.
ULTIMATE GOAL WITHIN GRASP
From the start of this season, the Gophers have wanted to reach the Frozen Four next month, April 5 and 7,in Tampa, Fla.
"Going to Tampa has been our biggest goal," Matson said. "Winning the MacNaughton Cup was huge for us, too. It gave us a huge confidence boost. But that is over and done with now and so are the WCHA championships. We are just moving on to the NCAAs.
"No one on our team has played in a [NCAA] game yet, so it is going to be great for us and it is going to be really exciting."
The last time the Gophers were in the NCAA tournament was in 2008.They had a bad draw that season. They played Boston College, the eventual national champion, in their first game. The Eagles won 5-2 in Worcester, Mass.
"I have never played in a game like that, to be honest with you," Matson said, referring to the Gophers' 6-3 loss to UND. "We are dominating for two periods, and everything was going our way. It's just a credit to North Dakota. They came out and took it to us and just got three quick goals. Like I said, we just led the pedal get off the gas a little bit.
"If it is 3-0, you have to get that fourth and fifth goal. Keep punching your opponent in the nose. Never take the pedal off the gas and keep trying to get more goals and play defensively as well."
So how do you get the momentum back? "That's on us and our seniors and captains," said Matson, who is both. "We need to make sure we handle that in the right situations and deal with that in a correct way."
"The [Terriers] have been a top powerhouse team for a lot of years," Matson said. "I know they have been down for the last couple seasons, but this season they have been right up there with the ranks of BC and [teams] like that. We know they are a good team. They've got a lot of good senior and junior experience, so weare just hoping we can match that."
And one worry Matson does not have is about Kent Patterson, his goalie, despite the six goals he gave up to UND.
"Kent can put that behind him and move forward," Matson said. "What we are doing with our whole team, is trying to move forward from what happened on Friday night. It's a new slate, and the NCAAs are coming.
"For Kent, he is just going to work hard all week and be ready to go."