Roman Augustoviz spends Minnesota's winters covering college hockey, specifically the Gophers, and other University of Minnesota sports. During the summer, he writes about the WNBA's Minnesota Lynx, with a dose of U sports sprinkled in. Follow him on Twitter @RomanStrib.

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Lucia expects great regional, great crowds at X

Posted by: Roman Augustoviz under Gophers, Men's hockey Updated: March 19, 2012 - 3:13 PM

Gophers coach Don Lucia said his team is looking ahead, not behind.

 "The guys were disappointed after Friday," Lucia said, referring to a 6-3 loss to North Dakota in the Final Five semifinals. "But we came back [Saturday]. We showed a little video of some of the mistakes we made. We had a great hour practice [Saturday].  And then we said, 'That is behind us.'

"The guys felt good about that. I wanted them to be excited [Sunday] morning coming to the rink and back in the NCAA tournament, their reward. We talked all year, what we do, it's a week-to- week deal. You put what happened this past weekend behind us and move forward and get ready for [this] weekend. I think the guys are really excited about it.

"There are 16 teams left that have a chance. And there is always a slew of upsets in the NCAA tournament and I am sure this [year] will be no different. It is a great field. Certainly, we have a tremendous regional. We will have great attendance here this weekend at the Xcel Center, so it is going to be fun for everybody."

In Saturday's semifinals, North Dakota plays Western Michigan at 12:30 p.m., and the Gophers play Boston University at 4 p.m.

Asked about the possibility of another game with North Dakota, Lucia said, "All I can say is we are looking forward to playing Boston University. We are not going to look forward to anything other than that. Boston University is a great program. The one thing [North Dakota] will add, we will have great attendance this weekend. And that will be fun.

"It is always fun when you have a regional and there are a lot of people in the building. We are going to have that this weekend. So that is going to be the best part of it."

Boston U strengths? "They are like they always are, they are one of the elite teams," Lucia said. "I have watched them a few times on tape. They obviously have some high-end skill. They have some seniors on their team [two] that won a national title [in 2009], so they know what it takes at this time of the season. So it is going to be a great challenge for our team.

"We know we have a great opponent in the first round. When you start looking ahead, you are going to end up biting yourself in the rear end. Western Michigan is playing very well right now. That is going to be a tremendous matchup with North Dakota. For all the fans that are going to be in attendance, they are in for a treat. They are seeing a great regional here in St. Paul."

LESSON LEARNED

"I have never been a part of a game where you had the two extremes," Lucia said, referring to last Friday. "And the snowball started going downhill and we couldn't stop it. To their credit, [the Fighting Sioux] made the plays in the third period. The one area we didn't do a good job late in the third period was that blue paint around the net. We allowed them to score some blue-paint goals. We didn't do that earlier in the game. That's how we scored a couple of our goals. So the game kind of turned.

"But a great lesson for our guys. We have been such a good third period team all season long. It is one of those things that happens.

"We came back from Denver after getting swept, and had a good run. That's all part of it. You are going to win some games, you are going to lose some games. We are excited about playing in the NCAA tournament. The nice thing this week is we don't have to worry about travel or anything like that. We can continue to concentrate  and have a good week of preparation and try to play the best game we possibly can against BU.

ESPN NOT PUCK-FRIENDLY

This may come as a shock to some Gophers fans, but they won't be able to watch their team play Boston University on Saturday live if they are not at the X -- unless they have a computer.

The Gophers game at 4 p.m. and the preceding West Regional semifinal between North Dakota and Western Michigan will be on ESPN3.com only.

At 1 p.m. Monday, it was carrying a baseball exhibition game between Detroit and Philadelphia, but I was asked to download Adobe Flash Player 11.1 to watch.

Clay Matvick and Dave Starman will broadcast the games. Saw Starman a lot at the X last week for Final Five. Obviously, he was doing his homework on WCHA teams.

Of course, if you want to wait a day, you can watch both games on tape delay on ESPNU. [It's Ch. 269 on Comcast at my house in Coon Rapids].

Here is the Sunday schedule on ESPNU:

North Dakota vs. Western Michigan, 11:30 a.m. [tape delay, 23 hrs. after even started]

Gophers vs. Boston University, 2 p.m. [tape delay]

Championship game, 4:30 p.m. ... this game will be broadcast live. It's also on ESPN3.com

TOUGHEST REGION?

Is the West the toughest of the four regions? A strong case can be made that it is.

Top seed North Dakota is only the No. 4 seed overall, but the Fighting Sioux have won seven games in a row and are the Final Five champions. The finished the tournament by outscoring the Gophers and Denver 10-0 in the last four and one-half periods. Who wants to play them?

The second-seeded Gophers led the WCHA race from start to finish after getting off to a 6-0 start. They still own a 3-2 edge in their season series with UND. At their best, they look like a team that could win the NCAA title with scoring -- Bjugstad, Haula, Rau -- dependable, if not flashy defensemen and a proven goalie in Kent Patterson.

The third seed is Boston University, No. 8 in the USCHO.com poll this week and the NCAA champion as recently as 2009.

Fourth-seeded Western Michigan just won the CCHA tournament.

Blogger Chris Peters called the West the "group of death" to borrow a phrase from World Cup soccer for its toughest group of teams. I like that phrase, but would change it slightly. Maybe, "arena of death."

Peters also called the Gophers-BU game the most intriguing and watchable matchup in the first round. It sure has a lot of unpredictability to it, especially the way the Gophers played in a 6-3 loss to North Dakota in their last game.

It was the best and the worst the Gophers  have played this season, going up 3-0, then being run over 6-0.

 

 

 

 

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