Frozen Four: Gophers relishing underdog role

It's been Boston College this and BC that in advance of the Frozen Four. With all due respect, the Gophers are ready for the faceoff.


TAMPA, FLA. -- Erik Haula is jittery and cranky after a 10-day layoff. Haula, the Gophers' leading scorer, wants to play Boston College already -- rather than continue to read and hear about the high-flying Eagles.

He is about to finally get his wish.

The Gophers and Eagles will meet Thursday in the second semifinal of the Frozen Four. It is being called a matchup of hockey royalty; between them, the two programs have nine NCAA titles and 41 previous Frozen Four appearances. Ferris State and Union, in the other semifinal, are both making their first Frozen Four appearance.

"Everyone has the jitters right now," Haula said this week, before venting his frustration. "I am actually kind of sick of all this stuff going around here. I just want to get in the game and start playing. You know, all this hype that [the Eagles] are getting. There are four good teams in this tournament."

Perhaps, but BC is the clear favorite. Gophers coach Don Lucia agrees and makes this analogy: Boston College, he said, has the aura of Tigers Woods in his heyday. Given the choice of Tiger at his peak or the rest of the field in a tournament, Lucia said, most people would have still picked Woods.

The Eagles have won two of the past four NCAA titles. On top of that, BC is the No. 1 overall seed and is riding a 17-game winning streak -- the longest in Jerry York's storied coaching career at the Jesuit-run school in Chestnut Hill, Mass. To get here, the Eagles shut out defending national champion Minnesota Duluth.

"It's kind of nice to be in the underdog role for a change," said Lucia, whose team is also peaking but hasn't been to the Frozen Four since 2005. "Let's put the pressure on them. I like the way we are playing. ... And we know this is not the best-of-seven [series], it is the best of one. It is a one-game shot."

That thought offers comfort.

"In college hockey anyone can beat anyone any night," Gophers captain Taylor Matson said. "BC has a hot goaltender [and] their defensive corps is really strong as well, but we have dealt with top teams throughout the whole season."

Two balanced teams

Lucia said the Eagles are unique. "They are skilled and they are big," he said. "They have that combination which most teams don't. Three lines that can score. They have a 20-goal scorer on ever line. Who has that?"

Well, the Gophers come close. They have size in players such as forwards Nick Bjugstad, Zach Budish and defenseman Seth Helgeson and Mark Alt. They have speed with forwards Kyle Rau, Erik Haula and Nate Condon scattered among the top three lines. Bjugstad and Haula, the sophomore centers on the top two lines, are the Gophers' 20-goal scorers, and the reinvigorated third line -- with freshman Travis Boyd the past two games -- is coming off a three-goal performance in the region final.

"It is going to come down to the little things," Haula said.

Here are four keys to a Gophers victory:

• Win most of the puck battles. "That is more important than maybe the big hit," Lucia said. He said the Gophers have tapered like runners and swimmers do before a big meet and should be mentally and physically recharged.

• Take care of the puck. "We have to make sure we get pucks behind their 'D,'" Lucia said. "We cannot turn pucks over and allow them to transition because of their team speed." If the Eagles are in the Gophers' end, Lucia said, "we have to make sure to get in there and hit and pin and eliminate BC."

• Win the goalie duel. BC goalie Parker Milner has not given up a goal in more than seven periods of ice time. "We are hoping he is due to let one in," Lucia said. Gophers goalie Kent Patterson was the MVP of the West Regional; he can steal a game and usually plays his best when he is busy. Lack of shots should not be a concern for Patterson against BC.

• Score first -- or at least second. Boston College is 28-3-1 this season when scoring first. Lucia said if BC does score first, the Gophers need to get the second goal of the game.

Asked if he had a pregame pep talk planned, Lucia was blunt. "If you have to give the big time pep talk this time of the year," he said, "you are in sorry shape. The guys are pretty motivated."

As is Lucia.

"It is hard to get to a Frozen Four," he said. "It is hard to win a semifinal game. This is our chance. When you are a freshman or sophomore there is no guarantee you will get this opportunity again."

  • NCAA FROZEN FOUR

    THURSDAY, SATURDAY • TAMPA, FLA.

    CHAMPIONSHIP GAME • 6 P.M. SATURDAY • ESPN2

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

San Francisco - M. Bumgarner 7:07 PM
Kansas City - J. Shields
San Diego 10/23/14 7:25 PM
Denver
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Atlanta
Buffalo 10/26/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
St. Louis 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Houston 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Minnesota 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Seattle 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Baltimore 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Miami 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Chicago 10/26/14 12:00 PM
New England
Philadelphia 10/26/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Oakland 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Cleveland
Indianapolis 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Pittsburgh
Green Bay 10/26/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Washington 10/27/14 7:30 PM
Dallas
Houston 7:00 PM
Miami
Indiana 7:00 PM
Minnesota
Utah 7:00 PM
Oklahoma City
Portland 8:00 PM
Denver
Phoenix 9:00 PM
LA Lakers
LA Clippers 9:30 PM
Golden State
San Jose 6:00 PM
Boston
NY Rangers 6:00 PM
New Jersey
Toronto 6:00 PM
NY Islanders
Detroit 6:30 PM
Montreal
Arizona 7:00 PM
Nashville
Carolina 7:00 PM
Winnipeg
Philadelphia 7:30 PM
Chicago
Vancouver 7:30 PM
Dallas
Florida 8:00 PM
Colorado
Tampa Bay 8:00 PM
Calgary
Arkansas State 7:00 PM
Louisiana
Connecticut 10/23/14 6:00 PM
(18) East Carolina
Miami-Florida 10/23/14 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
So Florida 10/24/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Troy 10/24/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
BYU 10/24/14 8:00 PM
Boise State
(6) Oregon 10/24/14 9:00 PM
California
North Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Rice
UAB 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Arkansas
Rutgers 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
Maryland 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Wisconsin
Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
Minnesota 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Memphis 10/25/14 11:00 AM
SMU
North Carolina 10/25/14 11:30 AM
Virginia
San Jose St 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Navy
Northern Ill 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
(25) UCLA 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Akron 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ball State
Massachusetts 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Toledo
Ohio U 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Western Mich
Ga Southern 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Kent State 10/25/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Oregon State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Stanford
Fla Atlantic 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(23) Marshall
Louisiana Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(1) Miss State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Georgia Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Pittsburgh
(22) West Virginia 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(10) TCU
Michigan 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Boston College 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Central Mich 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Vanderbilt 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Missouri
Old Dominion 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Western Ky
UNLV 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Utah State
Temple 10/25/14 4:00 PM
UCF
(15) Arizona 10/25/14 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 10/25/14 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 10/25/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(3) Ole Miss 10/25/14 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 10/25/14 6:30 PM
Tennessee
So Carolina 10/25/14 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 10/25/14 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 10/25/14 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 10/25/14 9:45 PM
Washington
Nevada 10/25/14 10:59 PM
Hawaii
Montreal 10/24/14 5:30 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 10/24/14 8:30 PM
Calgary
Hamilton 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Toronto
Brt Columbia 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Winnipeg
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

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.X24-7
Sep 27 - at Michigan 2:30 pmX30-14
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern 11 amX24-17
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 amX39-38
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

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How will the Vikings and Gophers do this weekend?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close