Tonight in Colorado Springs (8 CT), Don Lucia will coach his final game there for some time because of the Gophers heading into the Big Ten next year.
Before I get started, I just wanted to let you know that we have a Faces of the Lockout package running in Sunday's newspaper. There will also be a video package online. We all know about the owners and players in this dispute, but the lockout affects so many more innocent parties. We talked to a few.
Also, Chip Scoggins has a great column in Saturday's paper on the dismay of many fans, something that should alarm the Wild and NHL and NHLPA. Also, Kevin Duchschere looks here at the businesses affected near the arena.
Back to Lucia: He coached the Tigers for six years and 166 wins. He guided them to two Frozen Fours.
Last night, the Gophers won 4-2 behind two goals from Sam Warning (he returned last week after missing nine games with an injury), one from hometown boy Tom Serratore and an empty-netter from Zach Budish. Erik Haula had two points and now has points in 11 straight. Adam Wilcox made 24 saves and is now 10-2-2 for the 11-3-2 Gophers. Serratore had the team over to his family’s home for dinner Thursday night.
Lucia took the CC job when his wife, Joyce, was pregnant with their youngest child, Mario, who is now a freshman at Notre Dame and a Wild draft pick.
But Joyce, a native of Fairbanks, refused to leave Alaska until Mario was born.
“I still kid her about that,” Don Lucia said, laughing. “She didn’t think there was anybody who could deliver a baby in Colorado, so there was no way she was leaving without Mario getting a 574 Social Security number from Alaska.”
The Lucias had sold their house, so they lived for awhile in a motorhome. Mario was born on Aug. 25, a Thursday, Don Lucia remembers. The family left town the following Tuesday for a 3,000-mile trek south in the motorhome to Colorado Springs.
“So Mario lived in Alaska for five days. I don’t think he remembers much of it,” Lucia said. “I used a joke back then that my wife had a premonition we were going to win the league because she was giving me the finger all the way to Colorado, along with all of my in-laws.
“It was a trail of tears when we left Alaska with her mom and dad and everybody there. ... I’d be driving late at night and they’d be sleeping in the back. I’d be up by six heading out on the Alaska Highway and they’d be bouncing on the beds when we hit those bumps.
“We literally pulled into Colorado Springs the Sunday before Labor Day.” As their house was being built, the whole family lived in a two-bedroom apartment with no dishwasher or washer and dryer.
“But I have nothing but great memories of my time there. It was one of the best periods of my life,” Lucia said.
Speaking of Mario Lucia, he is red-hot. The CCHA Rookie of the Week last week after a three-goal weekend, the 2011 Wild second-rounder had a goal and assist last night in a 3-2 Irish win over Michigan State.
Lucia now has five goals in seven games since returning from a broken tibia and ankle injury.
He was also invited to the U.S. world junior training camp, something a few weeks ago Don Lucia told his son may be tough because he had just come back from the injury.
“He wasn’t happy to hear that,” Don Lucia said. “I told him, ‘You have a couple weeks to prove yourself. We talked every day at night on the good ole FaceTime on the iPad. So he was excited to make it, as should be. But now there’s another step for him. He’s one of 15 or 16 forwards to make the team.
“But I know how hard he’s worked in his rehab to get back to playing at a high level.”
Lucia, by the way, said 16 because the U.S. is considering inviting one more forward to camp after this weekend. The Gophers’ Travis Boyd is a contender for that extra spot.
The Houston Aeros continue to be red-hit. They won their sixth in a row last night with a 2-1 overtime win at Texas.
Who scored the goal? None other than the clutch Jason Zucker, the Wild’s third 2010 second-rounder. It was Zucker’s AHL-leading second OT winner this season.
Defenseman Kris Fredheim also scored a goal and Matt Hackett made 35 saves. The Aeros are now fourth in the West heading into Sunday’s home game vs. Peoria.
Zucker’s goal, coming off a back-hander, was his 12th of the season, which is tied for fourth in the AHL and first among all rookies. Hackett is now tied for third in the AHL with nine wins.
No NHL/NHLPA news as of yet. My guess is both sides will try to get this bad boy back on track again the early part of the week.