Since that first meeting between the University of Minnesota and Notre Dame on Jan. 8, 2013, the Lucia vs. Lucia Gophers-Fighting Irish showdown has become old hat for Gophers coach Don Lucia and his youngest child, Mario.
This weekend will be the sixth and seventh time Mario has faced off against his dad, who has a 4-1 record against his son and his alma mater. But it will also be the last as Mario Lucia, a Wild 2011 second-round pick, will graduate with a degree in business management and plans to sign with the Wild this spring.
"As usual, I want us to win and him to play well," Don Lucia said, laughing, before the Gophers play Friday and Saturday in South Bend, Ind. "I don't think it's as big a deal since we've been through it. The nerves and anxieties and how it's going to work with him and me and the family, that's worn off and now it's just become almost like another game."
Don Lucia will get one final up-close view of Mario this weekend. The benches are on opposite sides at Compton Family Ice Arena, so Lucia, a left wing, will skate up and down the ice on his dad's side.
Lucia has scored two goals and five assists in six games for the 3-1-2 Irish. Last season, Lucia tied for 13th in the nation with a team-high 21 goals. Instead of signing with the Wild, Lucia decided to return for his senior year because he was 15 credits from graduating.
"That's why you go to school," Don Lucia said. "You go to school to develop physically, mature, grow and get your degree. The Wild were terrific how they handled it, and Mario made the difficult decision. But I'm glad he went back because now he can get his degree, hopefully have a good run this spring, and then get some games in the American League and get ready for camp next fall."
And Lucia reiterated that Mario has no aspirations to pull a "Mike Reilly" and become a free agent.
"There has been zero discussion about anything else [other than signing with the Wild," Don Lucia said.
Thursday was the 10-year anniversary of captain Mikko Koivu's NHL debut. Koivu, who missed the first 14 games of 2005-06 because of a sprained MCL, logged 13 minutes, lost four of four faceoffs and took a penalty in a 3-1 Wild win at San Jose. Brian Rolston, one of his future Wild mentors, scored all three goals, and Koivu started on a line with Derek Boogaard and Kyle Wanvig.
"I remember the first shift, Patrick Marleau was just flying by me ... I was like, 'Woah, this is fast,' " Koivu said.
Koivu is the Wild's all-time leader with 365 assists, 512 points, 116 multi-point games and 39 shootout goals and is 51 games from passing Nick Schultz as the all-time games played leader (744).
"It does feel like 10 years, but only in a good way," Koivu said. "There's a lot of ups and downs like in sports always, but there's so many good things with being able to play with one team and one city and the friendships that you create.
"You feel like you're at home."
• Defenseman Christian Folin was scratched a fourth consecutive game for Nate Prosser. "This is not on him, but the way things have gone lately, guys have been doing a pretty good job," coach Mike Yeo said. But Prosser didn't play the entire third period against St. Louis because of an injury.
• The Wild's center depth took a hit when Zac Dalpe underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left hip and will miss five months.