U eager for rematch with Boston College

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 29, 2012 - 2:07 AM

The Gophers play Air Force today on the first day of the Mariucci Classic, but it's hard for them not to look ahead to their Frozen Four opponent.


Boston College's Tommy Cross(4) tried to take the puck from the Gophers' Nate Schmidt during the Frozen Four in April.

Photo: Richard Tsong-Taatarii, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Asked what he remembers most about the Frozen Four last April when eventual NCAA champion Boston College spanked Minnesota 6-1 in the semifinals, Nate Schmidt rolled his eyes and laughed.

"I remember seeing and being behind a lot of 2-on-1's, so that wasn't very good," said Schmidt, the Gophers' top-scoring defenseman.

Almost nine months after the Eagles ruined the Gophers' national title dreams, Boston College will waltz into Mariucci Arena this weekend as the No. 1 team in the country thanks to an 11-2-1 record.

The fourth-ranked Gophers (11-3-3) will get a crack at them at 7 p.m. Sunday on the second day of the 22nd annual Mariucci Classic that also brings Air Force and the University of Alabama-Huntsville to Minneapolis.

"I don't want to say it's just another game because it's not," Schmidt said of the BC rematch. "It's got a little implication on it."

The big story line in the tournament is legendary Boston College coach Jerry York being one victory from breaking Ron Mason's NCAA mark for most Division I victories by a hockey coach. In 41 years, York has won 924 games and can break the record when the Eagles face Alabama-Huntsville at 4 p.m. Saturday.

"It's kind of neat that he has the opportunity to do that here and our fans will have the opportunity to see history being made," said Gophers coach Don Lucia, a winner of 608 games in 26 seasons.

Before the Gophers have to worry about the Eagles and the "measuring stick" Lucia says they will provide, the Gophers have a 7 p.m. date Saturday with Air Force -- coached by Frank Serratore, the father of Gophers hard-hitting junior forward Tom Serratore.

It'll be the first time Pops has seen his son play a college hockey game in person, and it'll be from the opposing bench.

"People were saying [over Christmas], 'You won't be sad if the Gophers win and your son scores the winning goal,'" Frank Serratore said, laughing. "My response was, 'You think I want to listen to him chirp me the rest of my life? Are you kidding me?' I want the winning goal to be scored by a guy in [Falcons] blue. That's what I want."

Measuring stick

The Gophers, off the past three weeks, are looking at the games against Air Force and Boston College as a kickstart to the second half. They were inconsistent for much of the first half and sit tied for fifth place in the WCHA with a 6-3-3 record and 16 conference games left. The Gophers are three points back of WCHA-leading St. Cloud State with two games in hand.

Twelve of the Gophers' final 19 games are at home. Their only airplane ride the rest of the regular season is a return flight from Chicago after playing Wisconsin in an outdoor game at Soldier Field on Feb. 17.

In January, the Gophers face No. 3-ranked Notre Dame, then 10 days later, North Dakota, tied for second place in the WCHA, and finish with Minnesota State Mankato, which has won seven of eight, in a home-and-home series.

"I think after this little pod of games the next three weeks, we'll have a good feeling of where we're at," said Schmidt, second among defensemen nationally in assists with 13.

The Gophers have gotten tremendous goaltending from freshman Adam Wilcox (10-2-3, 1.78 goals-against average), are the seventh-best defensive team in the country (2.00 goals per game allowed), have solid special teams (10th-best power play, eighth-best penalty kill) and allow only 22.9 shots a game.

Offensively though, while they rank 10th in the nation at 3.35 goals a game, the Gophers have scored only 37 even-strength, non-empty-net goals (2.17 a game). Lucia said it is critical the Gophers score another 5-on-5 goal every game.

"Our best players have to be our best players," Lucia said. "As we move forward, we need a little more offense from [Nate] Condon, [Zach] Budish, [Kyle] Rau, [Nick] Bjugstad."

Last year's leading scorer, Erik Haula, leads the Gophers with 22 points. But through 17 games, Rau has 15 points and Budish, Condon and Bjugstad have 13 each. Bjugstad is tied with Haula with eight goals, but the Florida Panthers' first-round pick hasn't been as dominant as expected.

"He's done a good job in a lot of areas, but when you're pressing offensively, you try to do too much," Lucia said. "You hold on to the puck a little bit too long, you're not moving as quickly as you can. And don't forget, other teams are keying on him and making sure their top 'D' are out against him."

The Gophers returned to practice Christmas night and have found their legs after a predictably sluggish start from the holiday break.

"Guys were laying over the boards the first half-hour [Tuesday]," Schmidt said, laughing.

But Lucia wants no excuses this second half, and it starts with two formidable opponents in the Mariucci Classic.

"I still think we've got another level we can get to as a team, and for me, the sooner the better," Lucia said.

  • related content

  • Chart: About the Mariucci Classic

    Saturday December 29, 2012

    What/where: 22nd annual holiday men's hockey tournament with the No. 4-ranked Gophers (11-3-3), No. 1 Boston College (11-2-1), Air Force (5-7-4) and Alabama-Huntsville (3-14-1), Mariucci Arena.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


Baltimore 2 FINAL
Detroit 15
NY Yankees 5 FINAL
Philadelphia 5
Northeastern 1 FINAL
Boston 2
Miami-Fla 1 FINAL
Miami 7
Pittsburgh 8 FINAL
Toronto 7
San Francisco 4 FINAL
Oakland 9
Cleveland 0 FINAL
Cincinnati 10
Boston College 0 FINAL
Boston 1
Arizona State 0 FINAL
Arizona 4
Boston 79 FINAL
Cleveland 110
LA Lakers 103 FINAL
Charlotte 104
Sacramento 124 FINAL
New York 86
Houston 96 FINAL
Atlanta 104
Utah 93 FINAL
Memphis 82
Washington 92 FINAL
Chicago 97
Milwaukee 95 FINAL
Denver 106
Nashville 1 FINAL
New Jersey 3
Calgary 3 FINAL(OT)
Philadelphia 2
Washington 5 FINAL
Columbus 3
Buffalo 0 FINAL
Tampa Bay 3
Toronto 3 FINAL
Florida 2
Ottawa 2 FINAL(SO)
Minnesota 3
NY Islanders 2 FINAL(OT)
Dallas 3
Anaheim 4 FINAL
Arizona 1
Los Angeles 5 FINAL
Edmonton 2
San Jose 6 FINAL
Vancouver 2
Ole Miss 82 FINAL
Alabama 74
Eastern Mich 67 FINAL
Ball State 60
Kent State 81 FINAL
Bowling Green 80
Ohio 66 FINAL
Buffalo 93
Georgetown 60 FINAL
Butler 54
Toledo 77 FINAL
Central Mich 85
Rhode Island 59 FINAL
Dayton 75
Youngstown St 67 FINAL
Detroit 77
North Carolina 81 FINAL
Georgia Tech 49
Loyola-Maryland 45 FINAL
Holy Cross 62
Iowa 77 FINAL
Indiana 63
Akron 63 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 70
Army 52 FINAL
Navy 56
Maryland 60 FINAL
Rutgers 50
Kennesaw St 54 FINAL
USC Upstate 90
Jacksonville 63 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 81
Lipscomb 76 FINAL
Northern Ky 73
Stetson 67 FINAL
North Florida 81
Wright State 57 FINAL
Ill-Chicago 60
Western Mich 63 FINAL
Northern Ill 65
Nebraska Omaha 80 FINAL
North Dakota 78
Houston Baptist 71 FINAL
Abilene Christian 83
NC State 66 FINAL
Clemson 61
Texas A&M 62 FINAL
Florida 66
Kentucky 72 FINAL
Georgia 64
West Virginia 69 FINAL
Kansas 76
Auburn 61 FINAL
Missouri 63
Michigan 78 FINAL
Northwestern 82
Villanova 76 FINAL
Creighton 72
Longwood 55 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 63
Charleston Southern 39 FINAL
Presbyterian 47
Coastal Carolina 54 FINAL
UNC-Asheville 68
UMass Lowell 60
West Virginia 55 FINAL
Kansas State 59
Texas 79
Fresno State 61 FINAL
Air Force 41
San Jose St 76 FINAL
Boise State 91
Nevada 61 FINAL
Colorado State 68
San Diego State 76
Wyoming 61 FINAL
Utah State 57
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters





question of the day

Poll: Who is the best center on a Twin Cities sports team?

Weekly Question