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.
Sophomore center Nick Bjugstad was quizzed on everything Wednesday at the weekly media day the Gophers hold. Here are some of his answers.
1. Thoughts on Gophers coach Don Lucia: "He has got a great history, two national championships back to back. I watched coach Lucia coach both those teams. i always looked up to him. He is a Minnesota icon in my eyes.
"He is a big reason I am here. He is a great coach. And [there’s] great tradition within the program.
"We are just applying more of the stuff he is telling us this year as opposed to last year. The coaching staff has done a really good job with us this year."
2. Thoughts on being in an NCAA regional for the first time in four years? "Playing at the Xcel will be awesome, playing in front of our home crowd. We can’t be just happy to be there. We have not made it the last couple of years, the last three years. Our goal is to make it to the Frozen Four. That is the main goal, so we want to make sure we bring it every game.
"We haven’t seen BU this year. They haven’t see us either, so we are boat in the same boat. We will watch video. We will see their tendencies and their better players. We will be prepared for what they have. I know they are a hard-working team, they are very physical and we will be on a smaller ice sheet. At the Xcel, it will be a gritty game. and i think it will be exciting for everyone.
"I am super excited to play in the NCAA tournament. It will be awesome but, like i said, we don’t want to stop there. We want to keep going from there."
3. Thoughts on the loss to North Dakota last week: “We have had a little chip on our shoulder the past couple of weeks [days of waiting seemed a lot longer for Bjugey] just because of that loss. We had them and we just kind of, for the lack of a better term, we kind of choked. We learned from that. And I think it will be a good learning experience down the road. We will deal with some adversity. I’m sure in the next couple of games, there is going to be some good teams."
The Gophers were back practicing the next day, Saturday, after losing to UND. " It was tough. Obviously, we knew we could have been playing on Saturday if we put the third period together. We had to move on. we all knew we were going to be in the [NCAA] tournament. We were guaranteed a spot. ... We had a pretty good practice. Everybody was working hard, and we had a good attitude."
4. Thoughts on maybe playing UND again: "You can’t really look ahead to it. They are in the same bracket as us. They are really hot right now. If it does end up that way I am sure it will be a great game.
"We proved we could basically play with anyone. [To] take a lead like that early in the game, it was good. But we kind of sat back on our heals and it was tough experience, especially in front of our home crowd. We learned from that, which is going to be big going down the stretch."
5. Thoughts on goalie Kent Patterson, who gave up five goals in under 10 minutes in the third period against UND: "He is a great goaltender. Everyone is going to have a hiccup here and there. We rely on him heavily, but we have to do a better job in front of the net, get sticks, which we didn’t do against North Dakota this past game. I am sure he is going to have a little chip on his shoulder as well and he is going to take that to heart and play really well this Saturday.
Bonus topic. Thoughts on Gophers women's team winning NCAA title on Sunday: "We see a lot of those girls [weight]-lifting and we skate with them sometimes. So it is a great honor for them and we are proud of them."
FYI: Since missing the first Wisconsin game on March 2, Bjugstad has one goal and one assist in four games. He was injured Feb. 25 in the second game of a series at Nebraska Omaha. The Gophers' one game-and-out in the Final Five enabled him to get a little extra rest for this weekend.
As of Wednesday, there were about 8,500 two-day packages sold for the West Regional on Saturday and Sunday, according to Garry Bowman, director of communications for the University of Minnesota and one of three media coordinators for this event.
"It [ticket sales] are going OK, but with Minnesota and North Dakota in it, we were hoping we'd be a little better at this point," he said.
Bowman said he still expects more than 10,000 ticket packages to be sold, which are good for all three games. The price is $94, or just over $30 per game.
What about single-day tickets? Bowman said the decision whether to sell them or not is up to the local organizing committee. The Xcel Energy Center and the University of Minnesota are the regional's co-hosts.
In 2010, when the X had a regional and St. Cloud State was the only in-state team in the field along with Wisconsin, Northern Michigan and Vermont, a decision was made mid-week to sell single-session tickets, one for the first day, one for the second.
In 2011 when the Frozen Four was at the X, single-session tickets were not sold.
Presumably, the local organizing committee could decide either Friday or Saturday to sell single-session tickets. But the cost per game of those tickets would be higher than it is with a two-day package, Bowman said. Which makes sense, otherwise those who bought their $94 two-day packages would be unhappy.
If single-day tickets do become available, Saturday's ticket would include both games because there is only an hour break between them. Not enough time to clear the building and bring in another crowd.
RIVALRY BUILT IN PLAYOFFS
Since Don Lucia became the Gophers' coach in 1999-2000, his teams have met North Dakota in the WCHA or NCAA playoffs seven times in 13 years.
Here are the details.
2002: Gophers beat UND 7-2 and 4-3 in OT at Mariucci in first round of WCHA playoffs. ... UND's season over
2004: Gophers beat North Dakota 5-4 in Final Five championship game ... both advanced to NCAAs
2005: North Dakota beats Gophers 4-2 in Final Five championship game and 4-2 in Frozen Four semifinals in Columbus, Ohio ... Gophers' season over
2007 Gophers beat North Dakota 3-2 in overtime in Final Five championship game, but lose 2-3 in overtime in West Regional final in Denver ... Gophers' season over
2010: North Dakota beats Gophers 6-0, 2-4, 4-1 in first round of the WCHA playoffs ... Gophers' season over
2011: Are they on a collision course in the West Regional?
To sum up, the Gophers and UND are 5-5 in the playoffs since Lucia became the U's coach. Three times UND ended the Gophers' season; the Gophers did the same once to the Fighting Sioux.
Gophers coach Don Lucia said he has watched Boston University play games -- on TV or tape -- against Maine and Boston College this season.
"Typical BU team," Lucia said Monday on his radio show on 1500-AM. "They can skate. They are tough. They have skill. They have a real good back line with their defensemen. Their goaltender won a national title as a freshmen as did all these seniors."
BU has five seniors. The two key ones are goalie Kieran Millan and forward Chris Connolly, the team captain.
As a freshman in 2008-09, Millan was the Hockey Commissioners' Association national rookie of the year and made the 2009 Frozen Four all-tournament team. He had a 28-2-3 record his first college season.
Connolly, of Duluth, Minn., made the all-Hockey East rookie team and scored the first goal in BU's win over Miami in the NCAA title game and had an assist on the game-winner in overtime. He had 30 points his first season with the Terriers.
The other three seniors did not play at all -- defenseman Ryan Ruikka -- or pretty little. Forward Kevin Gilroy had two goals in 12 goals while Grant Rollheiser, a 6-foot-4 backup goalie, started 10 games and had a 6-4-1 record.
The Terriers' season hit a few bumps recently. They are 2-3 in their last five games. They have played a lot of close game, going 5-4-2 in 11 overtime games.
"I'm impressed" with BU, Lucia said on the radio. "Their power play is good. They've got good skill in their top couple lines. Those Boston kids, they are tough kids. They are strong physically. They are good skating. We have as difficult a first-round matchup as we could have."
DIRTY AREAS A FOCUS
Lucia said the Gophers on Saturday and Monday worked on battling around the blue paint, on offense and defense.
"The guys got a little bit tentative in that third period," Lucia said, referring to the Gophers 6-3 loss to North Dakota last Friday in the Final Five semifinals, "and all of a sudden we gave up that area of the rink [on defense] when we hadn't most of the year. We hadn't the first two periods of that game.
"From the offensive standpoint, you have to get there. It doesn't hurt to shoot from bad angles, It doesn't hurt to shoot from behind the net at a goaltender's pad just trying to create offense any way you possibly can."
WCHA TEAMS IN THE NCAA
Lucia said the two WCHA teams in other regionals both have a chance to advance to the Frozen Four.
"UMD is a darn good team," he said. "UMD can beat anybody. So it will be interesting to see what happens if they play BC in the finals."
Boston College is the top seed in the regional at Worcester, Mass. The Bulldogs, who are the defending NCAA champions, play Maine first but could meet BC if they win their first-round game.
Lucia said he is worried about Denver in the Midwest Regional in Green Bay, Wis., because the Pioneers played six games in nine days in the WCHA playoffs -- three games in three days in the first round before outlasting Wisconsin and three games in three days in the Final Five. Three of DU's games went into overtime.
"They [the Pioneers] will have a chance to come out of that region," Lucia said, "but Michigan is probably the favorite."
What about the Gophers in the West Regional, in which conference rival North Dakota is the top seed, this weekend? "I just hope our guys play their best game of the year this weekend," he said, "and then you can live with the results."
Stop by startribune.com/sports for a live chat on the Gophers and the West Regional at noon today [Thursday].
Boston University coach Jack Parker said Tuesday the Terriers' season has been very rewarding on the ice, but there were off-ice problems with injuries and departures.
But the veteran coach, in his 39th year at BU, said he was proud his team played so hard and "kept it together."
Parker, who turned 67 on March 11, was on a Hockey East teleconference call with Boston-area and national media.
"We tied for second in one of the best leagues in college hockey," he said. "There is not anybody on the team that has not had a good year."
Parker said he was excited to be taking his team to Minnesota for the West Regional. "A few fans in green and white might be rooting for us," he said, in an obvious reference to North Dakota fans.
North Dakota plays Western Michigan in the first semifinal of the West Regional.
"Minnesota is a terrific college team," he said. "We are disappointed in the game we played Friday night, they are probably more disappointed [in their game that night]. ... They have a bad taste in their mouth and will want to take it out on us."
The Gophers, of course, lost to North Dakota 6-3 on Friday in their Final Five semifinal at the Xcel Energy Center. They had a 3-0 lead halfway through that game.
The Terriers lost to Maine 5-3 on Friday in the Hockey East semifinals. The Black Bears scored four power-play goals in the game, although one was an empty-netter.
The Gophers and Boston University have met 25 times. BU leads the series 12-11-2. They met for the first time in 1963 and most recently in 2005.
"We have had a great rivalry. The game that stands out the most is the 1976 national semifinals in which we lost [4-2]," Parker said. "There was a huge brawl in the middle of the game which went on for about 20 minutes. In reality, everybody should have been kicked out of the game."
He said if the other semifinal had not already been played, the winner of that game might have been named the national champion.
As it turned out the Gophers beat Michigan Tech 6-4 for the national title that year.
He said the WCHA and Hockey East later went to interlocking schedules -- one series against the other each season -- and Doug Woog became the Gophers coach. Parker called Woog a good friend and a good guy.
"The animosity disappeared," Parker said. "We were both in the '94 semifinals of the Frozen Four. We had a pretty good games against them."
BU won 4-1.
In 2005, BU played the Gophers in their last game in the Walter Brown Arena on Jan. 2 and in their first game in the Agganis Arena. The Gophers were No. 1 in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine ratings at the time, BU No. 13.
Don Lucia's Gophers won the first night 2-1, but lost the second night by the same score.
As for facing the Gophers again, Parker said, "My entire team is jacked up to play a team like Minnesota. We have two of the top winning programs in history. It will almost be like a Frozen Four game in that building with that crowd."
* The Gophers' all-time record in 91 seasons is 1656-941-171. This is their 33rd NCAA trip. They are 50-33 for a .602 winning percentage.
Minnesota has played in 19 Frozen Fours, winning five national titles in 1974, '76, '79, 2002 and '03. The Gophers have been runners-up six times, third six times and fourth twice.
* BU is making its 32nd NCAA tournament appearance. The Terriers are 38-32-0 in those previous trips for a .543 winning percentage.
They have reached 21 Frozen Fours, winning five national titles in 1971, '72, '78, '95 and 2009. BU also has been the national runner-up five times, third eight times and fourth three times.
TURMOIL AT BU
Boston University has had two players get in serious legal trouble this season. Corey Trivino and Max Nicastro.
Trivino was the center on BU's first line and leading Hockey East in scoring -- 13 goals, 17 points in 15 games --- when he was arrested on Dec. 11. The senior, who has pleaded not guilty to sexual assault, was quickly dismissed from the team.
Max Nicastro, a junior defenseman, was arrested Feb. 19. Nicastro, who has pleaded not guilty to two counts of rape, was suspended indefinitely and dropped out of school. He had three goals and nine points in 27 games.
Trivino was a second round pick of the New York Islanders in 2008, Nicastro a third round draft pick of the Detroit Red Wings in 2008.
The same week Trivino left, the Terriers also lost sophomore forward Charlie Coyle. He signed with the St. John SeaDogs of the Quebec Major Junior League. Coyle was Hockey East's rookie of the year as a freshman and was off to a good start his second season at BU. He had three goals and 14 points in 16 games.
He was a first round draft pick of the San Jose Sharks in 2010 but his rights were acquired by the Wild in the Brent Burns trade. The Wild signed Coyle on March 1.
Parker said all those incidents were "a huge distraction."
He said players lost good friends, teammates who they had a stall next to in the locker room, shared a dorm room with or ate with all the time.
"I really believe the best they felt was coming to the rink for practice and getting ready to play. Other guys were happy to till in: 'We lost him, now I get more ice time. I get some power play.'
"We had some guys switch positions. Overall, it is a difficult thing. But it gets easier as guys get more adjusted to it."
Parker said the seniors and captain made sure the players "focused on hockey and the present and not who we lost."
The BU administration also took notice. School president Robert Brown formed a 16-member task force to assess the culture and climate of the hockey team. It has been asked to decide if Parker's program is consistent with the values and mission of Boston University. Its report is due this summer.
* Parker called goalie Kent Patterson the backbone of the Gophers' team. "I have only seen one [Gophers] game on film so far," he said. "I have a few more to watch [Tuesday] night. But you can see by the statistics, he is a terrific goaltender."
* On BU's loss to Maine last Friday: "I liked the way the team came out. I didn't like how we were killing penalties. We seem to have went into a coma against their power play. One was an empty-netter, but the other three we handed to them."
* On senior captain Chris Connolly, a Duluth native and the older brother of UMD's Jack Connolly: "He is all excited to be back. And he is excited we are not playing his brother in the first round, which was a real possibility."
The Gophers have lost in the first-round of the WCHA playoffs the past two season. In 2010, they fell on the road at North Dakota in three games. Last year, they were swept by Alaska Anchorage at Mariucci Arena.
But it's hard to imagine that happening again, even though the Seawolves are back at Mariucci. The Gophers (24-12-1) are the top seed, Alaska Anchorage (9-23-2) the 12th seed.
The Gophers finished the season on a 5-1 run and have the WCHA's best goalie in Kent Patterson, who had a league-best 2.06 goals-against average. UAA's two goalies, Chris Kamal and Rob Gunderson of UAA had the two lowest save percentages in the league and goals-against averages over 3.50.
So if they bring their 'A' game the first two nights of the series, it should be a GOPHERS SWEEP
The other series:
Minnesota State Mankato (12-22-2, 11th seed) at Minnesota Duluth (22-8-6, second): UMD had a lot of fun in the playoffs last season. The Bulldogs, of course, won the NCAA championship and this weekend they can take a step toward a repeat. They are 3-0-1 vs. the Mavericks this season, and 11-1-2 in the past 14 meetings. That's dominance.
The Bulldogs are averaging an NCAA-best 3.67 goals per game and have a lot of firepower. Seniors Jack Connolly and Travis Oleksuk, and sophomore J.T. Brown are all capable of big games.
The Mavericks have won only two WCHA first-round series since joining the conference in 1997-98. That was in 2000 and 2003. Freshmen forwards Jean-Paul Lafontaine and Matt Leitner lead the Mavericks in scoring with 28 points apiece. Lafontaine has 13 goals, Leitner has 10. ... UMD SWEEPS
Wisconsin (16-16-2, 10th) at Denver (21-11-4, third): These teams split a series in Madison, Wis., last month. DU won the first game 3-0, the Badgers won the second 5-2. Wisconsin then won three road games in a row, two at Bemidji State and one at Mariucci to put together a four-game winning streak. The Gophers ended it by beating Wisconsin 2-1 last Saturday but had to rally for two third-period goals.
Another interesting number: Wisconsin is 9-1 against the Pioneers in the WCHA playoffs. The Pioneers have two 40-point forwards in Drew Shore, who has 21 goals and 47 points, and Wild prospect Jason Zucker, who has 20 goals and 42 points.
The Badgers have two of the best players in college hockey in defenseman Justin Schultz who has a team-high 15 goals and 27 assists for 42 points forward Mark Zengerle who has 12 goals and 37 assists for 49 points. ... BADGERS IN THREE
Bemidji State (17-16-3, ninth) at North Dakota (20-12-3, fourth): As usual, the Fighting Sioux finished the regular-season on a roll. They are 11-4-2 since the holiday break. Against Bemidji State all-time, they are 22-2-1, but one of those losses was 1-0 in Bemidji on Nov. 20.
Junior forward Danny Kristo led UND in scoring with 17 goals and a career-high 40 points. Teammate Brock Nelson was a point back with 23 goals and 16 assists.
The Beavers have the conference’s top penalty kill of .844 in league games. Jordan George lead the team in goals with 18 and points with 30. Goalie Dan Bakala has 44 career victories, one shy of the program record in the Division I era. ... SIOUX IN THREE
Michigan Tech (14-18-4, eighth) at Colorado College (18-14-2, fifth): CC swept the visiting Huskies 5-2 and 2-0 last weekend and is an amazing 22-0 against the Huskies in regular-season games at World Arena, but 2-6 all-time in playoff games.
Tigers coach Scott Owens needs one victory for 300 in his career. He has had 12 winning seasons in a row at CC.
Seven Tech players have scored between nine and 11 goals. The Schwartz brothers are 1-2 for the Tigers in scoring. Jaden has 15 goals and 40 points, Raylan 22 goals and 39 points. ... CC IN THREE
Nebraska Omaha (14-16-4, seventh) at St. Cloud State (15-16-5, sixth): The Mavericks limped into the playoffs, going 1-5 in their last six games. UNO has scored 10 shorthanded goals. Matt White leads the Mavericks in scoring with 17 goals and 23 assists for 40 points.
UNO beat St. Cloud State 4-3 and tied the Huskies 2-2 in late November in Omaha and are 4-0-2 against SCSU since joining the WCHA.
SCSU defensemen Nick Jensen has an eight-game points streak. He has six goals and 24 assists for 30 points. Ben Hanowski leads the Huskies in scoring with 20 goals and 19 assists for 39 points. ... UNO IN THREE
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