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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Big Ten Conference talk cools down after hot summer

Posted by: Roman Augustoviz under WCHA news Updated: November 24, 2009 - 9:58 AM

Gophers coach Don Lucia said one of the five Big Ten schools with a hockey program really made a strong effort to form a Big Ten hockey conference this summer.

"We were one of the holdouts against it," Lucia said on his Monday radio show.

Some of the push for such a conference came from the Big Ten Network, which would like to broadcast Big Ten hockey games from January through March on Friday nights.

"That's something we are going to try to work with," Lucia said. "Certainly our scheduling with the WCHA and CCHA so we can try to make that happen as much as possible. And maybe, if we are going to continue to play Michigan and Michigan State beyond next year look ... to do it the second half of the season for the Big Ten Network."

There was talk, Lucia said, of having Notre Dame, Miami and maybe Bowling Green join proposed the Big Ten league. 

"We felt very strongly that our rivals are here, within our state," Lucia said. "Geographically and everything else, the WCHA has certainly been good for us and we think we are good for the WCHA." 

The Big Ten league talk died down as the summer went along, Lucia said, but he said the discussion might start again someday, especially if another school added hockey.

At present, only five Big Ten schools have varsity hockey programs: Minnesota and Wisconsin of the WCHA, and Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State of the CCHA.

(My guess is that Ohio State is the school pushing for a Big Ten league. It is not located in hockey country and probably would benefit the most from having Minnesota and Wisconsin as home opponents.)

"Without that sixth team, you can't get an automatic qualifier [for the NCAA tournament]," Lucia said. "It's playing enough league games and everything else. And it couldn't be called a Big Ten league if there was a non-Big Ten, or two or three members.

" We're happy with the status quo at the University of Minnesota. We think we have great rivalries within our state. We think it is best for our program to be where we are at right now," Lucia said.

SCOUTING MICHIGAN, MICHIGAN STATE

"Michigan is probably a mirror image of us so far this year," Lucia said. "They just went through a stretch where they lost five straight games. Lost four straight at home. I think they are 5-7 on the season right now after getting off to a decent start.

"We can feel their pain. It has been a long time since Michigan has lost five games in a row and certainly four home games. I thnk they lost only a couple last year.

"They are up-tempo. They skate really well. They are going to put pressure on you," said Lucia, describing the Wolverines. "Whereas Michigan State is going to play a much more controlled, defensive game. They went through their problems last year. They had all kinds of  injuries. It seems like everything that could happen, did happen to them last season. They've rebounded well and are off to a great start.

"Their goaltender has played very well and they are winning a lot of low-scoring, close games. Theyr are first or second in the CCHA right now. Two fun games, two good venues to play at, it's always a great measuring stick for us. And really we are 0-2-2 the last two years in this showcase. Before that we had a pretty good run."

"I just want to see us continue to take a step, and continue to get better."

Lucia said he is not worried about facing two teams which such different styles of play.

""The Gophers need to worry about the Gophers right now," Lucia said. "We just have to make sure we are playing to the level we need to  play at.

"Certainly against Michigan, if you turn the puck over, they are going to have that quick transition and you are going to be in trouble. I don't know if we will see a better skating team than what we will see with Michigan this year."

Michigan is 5-7-0 overall and 3-5-0 in the CCHA, tied for ninth place with Nebraska-Omaha. The Wolverines beat Bowling Green 4-1 in their last game to break a five-game losing streak during which they scored six goals. They were swept by Miami and Michigan State and lost to Bolwing Green 4-2 at home.

Michigan State is 9-3-2 overall and 6-2-2 in the CCHA, which puts the Spartans in second place, The Spartans had an eight-game unbeaten streak (6-0-2) broken by a 4-1 loss at Notre Dame in their last game.

 

 

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