Rachel Blount writes about a wide variety of sports subjects, including Olympic sports, women's sports and social issues that intersect with the games we watch and play. She has been at the Star Tribune for 20 years, covering everything from hockey to horse racing to seven Olympic Games. An Iowa native, she holds degrees from the University of Notre Dame and the University of Missouri and is married to fellow sportswriter Pat Borzi.

Gophers-North Dakota: One more time?

Posted by: Rachel Blount Updated: March 25, 2013 - 12:48 AM

Gophers and North Dakota fans didn't get that dream matchup they wanted in the WCHA Final Five last weekend. Thanks to the NCAA, they might yet get another game between the two rivals this season, in the NCAA tournament.

The Gophers, as expected, landed the No. 2 overall seed and will be the top seed in the West Regional in Grand Rapids, Mich., where they will play Yale on Friday afternoon. North Dakota got the No. 2 seed in the regional and plays Niagara, the regular-season champion of Atlantic Hockey. The winners play in the regional final Saturday afternoon with a Frozen Four berth on the line.

If that sounds like a familiar storyline, it is. Last year, the Gophers hosted the West Regional at Xcel Energy Center and won their first-round game against Boston University. They then defeated North Dakota 5-2 in the regional final to advance to the Frozen Four for the first time since 2003.

The WCHA got six teams--half of the conference's current membership--into the tournament. Hockey East and the ECAC got three each, and Atlantic Hockey and the soon-to-be-defunct CCHA got two each.

"Our league, I would argue, is the best in the country,'' Gophers captain Zach Budish said. "It's a tough league, and that prepares us well. We play quality opponents every weekend. That gets you prepared for playoff hockey.''

The Gophers have a 14-6 record against Yale, but they haven't played the Bulldogs since the 2002-03 season--when they beat them 7-3 in their holiday tournament on their way to their second consecutive national championship. This will be the first time the teams have played in the postseason.

Yale finished third in the ECAC this season behind Quinnipiac, ranked No. 1 in the USA Today poll and No. 2 in the USCHO.com poll, and Rensselaer. It's 18-12-3 overall, with a 7-7-1 road record and 12-9-1 conference mark. The Bulldogs have been shut out in their past two games, falling 5-0 to Union in the ECAC tournament semifinals and 3-0 to Quinnipiac in the third-place game.

This will be Yale's fourth NCAA appearance in the past five years after going only twice from 1952-2008. And it's made a good showing, making the regional final in 2010 and 2011 and losing to the eventual national champ both times (Boston College in 2010, Minnesota Duluth in 2011). And in 2010, the team it beat in the first round was ... North Dakota, 3-2. The Northeast Regional final was a real shootout that year, with Boston College beating Yale 9-7.

Statistically, Yale doesn't really stand out. It's ranked 26th nationally in scoring offense (2.82 goals per game) and 31st in scoring defense (2.76 goals against per game). Its power play is pretty decent, connecting on 20.9 percent of its attempts to rank 12th nationally. It's one of those Ivy schools that endows its head-coaching position, so Keith Allain has a title to rival a European royal: Keith Allain '80, Malcolm G. Chace Head Coach of Hockey. Whew.

The Gophers were clearly unhappy with the way they played in a 2-0 loss to Colorado College in the WCHA Final Five semifinals. They can take some solace in the fact that they have not lost back-to-back games all season. It has been pointed out in their pregame notes that the last time that happened was in 2003, when the Gophers won their second national title in a row. They didn't lose back-to-back games in 2002, either, when they broke their long NCAA title drought.

When asked after the CC game what the Gophers needed to clean up before the NCAAs, Budish had this to say: "Our compete level. We have to make sure we finish checks and limit our turnovers. Our coaches always stress that we're playing our best hockey when our hit total is up and our turnover numbers are down. When we're moving our feet and finishing our checks, we're more involved. We can create some chances off of that.''

Budish also said the Gophers' power play--which did not score on three chances, including a five-minute major--was "embarrassing.'' Coach Don Lucia said the team will work on the power play in practice this week. But he did not seem concerned about what he saw in the CC game.

"We've been good about bouncing back,'' he said. "When we lose a game, we seem to come back and play better next time out. ... We've had a great season so far. We've put ourselves in great position. We have to keep this in perspective. Our guys, when they get stung a little bit, usually bounce back quite well. I look forward to watching them bounce back this week.''




Tennessee 13 FINAL
Jacksonville 21
Philadelphia 12/20/14 3:30 PM
San Diego 12/20/14 7:25 PM
San Francisco
Minnesota 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Detroit 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Atlanta 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Green Bay 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Kansas City 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New England 12/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 12/21/14 3:05 PM
St. Louis
Buffalo 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Indianapolis 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Seattle 12/21/14 7:30 PM
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
New York 97 FINAL
Chicago 103
New Orleans 99 FINAL
Houston 90
Milwaukee 108 FINAL
Sacramento 107
Oklahoma City 109 FINAL
Golden State 114
Florida 2 FINAL(SO)
Philadelphia 1
Colorado 0 FINAL(OT)
Pittsburgh 1
Toronto 1 FINAL
Carolina 4
Washington 5 FINAL(OT)
Columbus 4
Anaheim 2 FINAL
Montreal 1
St. Louis 4 FINAL
Los Angeles 6
Edmonton 3 FINAL
San Jose 4
St Thomas (TX) 61 FINAL
Rice 72
Stony Brook 59 FINAL
Canisius 60
Temple 82 FINAL
Delaware 62
Long Island 69
Lehigh 65 FINAL
Quinnipiac 80
South Alabama 54 FINAL
Richmond 65
Seton Hall 89 FINAL
South Florida 69
Ga Southern 76 FINAL
Stetson 67
Yale 57 FINAL
Vermont 56
Cleveland State 54 FINAL
Virginia 70
Wright State 69 FINAL
Western Carolina 56
Nicholls 54 FINAL
Louisiana Tech 79
Morgan State 48 FINAL
Rider 62
Idaho State 72 FINAL
South Dakota St 75
Oakland City 52 FINAL
Austin Peay 76
Eureka 38 FINAL
Bradley 80
Appalachian St 65 FINAL
Charlotte 75
Connecticut 56 FINAL
Duke 66
Southern Miss 46 FINAL
Jackson State 66
Coastal Carolina 68 FINAL
Ole Miss 71
Montana State 53 FINAL
South Dakota 55
UAB 70
Ohio 69 FINAL
Evansville 81
CS-Dominguez 50 FINAL
Cal State Fullerton 72
Walla Walla 39 FINAL
Idaho 86
DePaul 59 FINAL
Oregon State 90
Nevada 65 FINAL
Pacific 69
Portland State 40 FINAL
San Francisco 77
CS-Bakersfield 56 FINAL
Utah State 57
Nevada 12/20/14 10:00 AM
Utah State 12/20/14 1:20 PM
Texas-El Paso
(23) Utah 12/20/14 2:30 PM
Colorado State
Western Mich 12/20/14 4:45 PM
Air Force
South Alabama 12/20/14 8:15 PM
Bowling Green
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Niagara 76 FINAL
Cleveland State 58
High Point 59 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 81
Towson 64 FINAL
Wake Forest 74
Presbyterian 50 FINAL
Charlotte 66
Chicago State 62 FINAL
Bradley 59
Northwestern Coll 58 FINAL
Drake 102
Vanderbilt 67 FINAL
Marquette 80
Temple 78 FINAL
Howard 48
Southern Miss 66 FINAL
Ole Miss 68
Rider 67
Miami-Florida 74 FINAL
St Mary-KS 51 FINAL
South Dakota 115
William & Mary 71 FINAL
Wofford 51
Troy 82 FINAL
Evansville 94
Loyola Marymount 54 FINAL
USC 96
St Francis-PA 52 FINAL
Duquesne 92
Indiana-Southeast 45 FINAL
Delaware State 52 FINAL
Detroit 74
Tenn Temple 48 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 68
West Virginia St 58 FINAL
Radford 52
Fairfield 47 FINAL
Seton Hall 79
Dartmouth 44 FINAL
New Hampshire 60
Ball State 47 FINAL
Pittsburgh 59
Jacksonville 61 FINAL
Tennessee St 64
Trine 45 FINAL
Western Mich 81
Tenn Tech 53 FINAL
Lipscomb 72
Samford 56 FINAL
Tulane 57
New Orleans 55 FINAL
Tulsa 78
Incarnate Word 61 FINAL
TX-Pan American 65
Ark-Little Rock 42 FINAL
South Dakota St 67
CS-Northridge 77 FINAL
Northern Ariz 71
Santa Clara 88 FINAL
Oregon 92
(19) Oklahoma St 55 FINAL
Weber State 49
Washington 69 FINAL
San Diego State 48
Cal Poly 68 FINAL
New Mexico 84
(10) Louisville 65 FINAL
Grand Canyon 51


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