Mariucci Arena has an Olympic-size ice sheet, but the Gophers are not alone in having a big rink.
Here's a look at other WCHA rink sizes:
Gophers, Mariucci Arena, 200x100
Alaska Anchorage, Sullivan Arena, 200x100
Colorado College, World Arena, 200x100
Minnesota State Mankato, 200x100
St. Cloud State, 200x100
Wisconsin, 200x97 ... OK, it is less wide by 3 feet, not sure that makes much difference
Denver, Magness Arena, 200x85
Michigan Tech, MacInnes Student Center, 200x85
UMD, DECC, 190x85 ... new rink opens Dec. 31, 2010 and is a little bigger, 200x85
North Dakota, 200x85
So currently, Olympic-size rinks outnumber smaller rinks in the WCHA 6-4. What will the addition of Bemidji State and Nebraska-Omaha do to those numbers?
The Bemidji Regional Events Center will be 200x85 just as the John Glas Fieldhouse is. The Qwest Center in Omaha in 200x85, too.
So that cuts the Olympic-size rink advantage from 6-4 to a 6-6 tie 6-6.
Why is this on my mind. An e-mailer sent me this note after my Sunday story a week and a half ago entitled, "What's wrong with the Gophers?"
MAYBE IT'S THE RINK? -- my title
Why is the decision to build Mariucci Arena Olympic size never discussed as a poor decision or as a reason for them going in the tank?
Besides being one of the worst TV camera angles ever, the Gophers are not built to compete on most rinks that are 200x85. They recruit finesse players who are their team's' superstar and are rarely taught in high school or even juniors how to play defense because they don't have to.
They simply have to skate around their opponents at home and then realize on the road or in the NCAA that they have to skate through their opponents because the ice is smaller.
The Gophers will NEVER play a National Championship semi final or final game on an Olympic-sized rink, so why would they have built that rink that size? They will always play in AHL or NHL buildings that are 200x85 in the NCAA's.
Foolish decision I would say!
Do you think this plays any role in your discussion from Sunday's article?
C.J. (this person only provided full first name, so I have used only his initials.)
Mariucci Arena opened in 1993-94 and since then, the Gophers have lost in the semifinals of three Frozen Fours (1994, '95, 2005), and won two Frozen Fours (2002, '03).
I haven't heard anybody complain about the size of the rink at Mariucci in my 2-1/2 seasons covering the team. When the Gophers have a road series coming up at a smaller rink, they often practice on the smaller ice sheet at Ridder.
The complaints I have heard, though, is that the team is not physical enough. The Gophers at times have been manhandled by teams such as North Dakota and Minnesota State Mankato.
Coach Don Lucia has gotten a few bigger players this season, like Seth Helgeson and Zach Budish, but the Gophers are still looking for a replacement for rugged defenseman Stu Bickel who was always knocking somebody down. They are still trying to find players to stand in front of the net and take punishment on a power play. They need a big body who can screen the goalie and tip shots.
So CJ is right when he suggests this team relies on finesse too much. The coaches have to start recruiting a few more players who will throw their body around, be excited to block shots, knock forwards down.
Maybe the large ice sheet had some influence on the type of players Lucia tried to sign, but after 10-1/2 seasons, he should have figured out what works for the U and what doesn't.
Lucia had a nice run in the early years of this decade, but this season could go either way ... up or down.
LUCIA'S 11-YEAR RUN
WCHA finish Postseason comments
1999-2000 6th 4th in Final Five 13-13-2 in conference, 20-19-2 overall
2000-01 3rd lost in first region game 18-8-2, 27 wins overall
2001-02 3rd NCAA champs 18-7-3, 32 wins, won 11 of last 12 games
2002-03 2nd Final Five, NCAA champs 15-6-7, 28 wins, 10-0-1 finish
2003-04 4th Final Five champs, lost in region final 15-12-1, 27 wins, lost to UMD 3-1 in last game
2004-05 3rd lost in Frozen Four semis 17-10-1, 28 wins, eliminated by NoDak 4-2
2005-06 1st lost in first region game 20-5-3, Holy Cross vanquished U 4-3 OT
2006-07 1st Final Five champs, lost in region final 18-7-3, North Dakota beat U 3-2 OT
2007-08 7th lost in first region game 9-12-7, but 19-17-9 overall
2008-09 5th missed NCAAs 12-11-5, lost to UMD in first Final Five game
2009-10 7th out of NCAA contention as of now 6-7-1, 8-9-1 ... five of next six games at home
So in his first 10 years, Lucia's teams have earned 10 banners/trophies:
* two MacNaughton Cups (regular-season WCHA titles)
* three Broadmoor Trophies (Final Five titles)
* three Frozen Four trips (region titles)
* two NCAA championships (national titles)