U hockey returns to No. 1 for first time since 2008

  • Article by: ROMAN AUGUSTOVIZ , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 8, 2011 - 7:28 AM

Don Lucia is keeping an even keel, since his team missed the NCAAs the last time it was No. 1.

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(center) Gopher Hockey Coach Don Lucia

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Coach Don Lucia called it "just a snapshot in time," but it's still a pretty picture for the Gophers men's hockey team.

For the first time in three years, players can say this: "We're No. 1."

The Gophers, who have missed the NCAA tournament each of the past three seasons, jumped from No. 5 to No. 1 on Monday in both major national hockey polls. They received 32 of a possible 50 votes in the United States College Hockey Online poll and 27 of a possible 34 votes in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll.

"We are 10 games into the season," Gophers coach Don Lucia said. "I look at it as a reward to the players for the work they put in and their accomplishments so far. But there is a good 65 to 70 percent of the season to play."

The Gophers swept North Dakota 2-0 and 3-2 at Mariucci Arena to improve to 9-1 overall. Second in both polls is Boston College (8-2), which dropped out of first after a 4-2 loss to Massachusetts over the weekend. Third is Colorado College (5-1), also falling a spot this week after a split with Nebraska Omaha.

"If I had a vote," Lucia said, "I'd vote for Merrimack [at No. 1]. They haven't lost yet."

Merrimack (7-0-1) of Hockey East is rated No. 4 by USA Today, No. 6 by uscho.com. But the Gophers -- already the fourth team to be ranked No. 1 this season -- have strong credentials, too. They have nine victories, more than any other Division I team. They are averaging an NCAA-best 4.80 goals per game and giving up only 1.60 goals, the third fewest.

Goalie Kent Patterson has a program record-tying five shutouts already and the Gophers, counting one overtime, have scored at least one goal in 28 of 31 periods.

The last time the Gophers were No. 1 in the polls was in late November 2008, when they opened the season 8-0-3. But in the first weekend after they reached the top, they lost their second game at Denver 4-0 and the next weekend they lost to Michigan 6-3 and tied Michigan State 4-4. That slide ended their two weeks at No. 1.

In December 2008, Lucia got sick with a disease eventually diagnosed as sarcoidosis, an autoimmune disease in which clusters of cells form in the body's organs. He missed four games, and the Gophers tumbled to fifth in the WCHA race by the end of the season. They missed the NCAA tournament that year as well as the next two.

That 2008-09 season underscores why Lucia is taking everything in stride. "We have been fortunate to win our close games and stay healthy," Lucia said. "But the college hockey season is a roller-coaster. We'll get to our adversity at some point. A lot of things can still happen. We have yet to see some of the top teams."

  • GOPHERS MEN'S HOCKEY Up next: at Wisconsin • 7 p.m. Fri., FSN • 7:30 p.m. Sat., BTN

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Los Angeles - LP: C. Frias 2 FINAL
Colorado - WP: J. De La Rosa 16
San Francisco - WP: S. Romo 4 FINAL
Arizona - LP: A. Reed 2
Boston 1 Top 8th Inning
Pittsburgh 9
Toronto 1 Bottom 7th Inning
Baltimore 5
Washington 1 FINAL
Atlanta 3
Miami 4 Bottom 8th Inning
NY Mets 2
NY Yankees 3 Top 9th Inning
Tampa Bay 2
Cincinnati 1 Bottom 6th Inning
Chicago Cubs 2
Chicago WSox 1 Top 6th Inning
Kansas City 5
Cleveland 2 Top 7th Inning
Houston 0
Detroit 4 Top 5th Inning
Minnesota 3
Milwaukee 0 Bottom 6th Inning
St. Louis 0
Seattle - J. Paxton 9:05 PM
LA Angels - C. Wilson
Texas - D. Holland 9:05 PM
Oakland - J. Samardzija
Philadelphia - C. Hamels 9:10 PM
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Minnesota 9/21/14 12:00 PM
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(20) Kansas State
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Troy 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(13) Georgia
Georgia Tech 9/20/14 11:00 AM
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Akron
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Army 9/20/14 2:30 PM
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Virginia 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(21) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 9/20/14 2:30 PM
SMU
Rutgers 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Central Mich 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Kansas
Utah 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Florida 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(3) Alabama
Louisville 9/20/14 2:30 PM
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Fla Atlantic 9/20/14 3:00 PM
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(18) Missouri
San Jose St 9/20/14 3:00 PM
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Texas State 9/20/14 3:00 PM
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(8) LSU
Northern Ill 9/20/14 6:00 PM
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Utah State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 season     
Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois 6 pmX42-20
Sep 6 - vs. M. Tennessee St. 2:30 pmX35-24
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pmX30-7
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. 3 p.m.
Sep 27 - at Michigan TBA
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern TBA
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 am
Oct 25 - at Illinois 11 am
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa TBA
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State TBA
Nov 22 - at Nebraska TBA
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin TBA

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