Gophers' Fab Five hoping to finish with an NCAA title

  • Article by: JASON GONZALEZ , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 29, 2014 - 11:49 AM

The U’s seniors have won conference titles, but the top prize has eluded them.

Ten were recruited for the job. Five remain to finish it.

The Gophers’ five seniors — Nate Condon, Tom Serratore, Justin Holl, Jake Parenteau and Michael Shibrowski — refer to themselves as the “Fab Five,” often using it with a hashtag on their social media accounts.

The nickname was intended for humor, but there’s a lot of truth to what it implies. These seniors are the first group in program history to win three consecutive regular-season hockey championships. They’ve held a presence near the top of the college hockey polls during this run, and have one Frozen Four appearance.

It’s safe to say, the five remaining players from a group of 10 who arrived on campus in 2010 have finished the job of pulling the Gophers hockey program out of its gloomy seasons.

They’ll begin the quest for the final piece in their rebuilding plan — a national championship — on Saturday evening at Xcel Energy Center. The Gophers, the No. 1 overall seed, and Robert Morris open the NCAA tournament West Regional at 4:30 p.m. St. Cloud State and Notre Dame face off at 8 p.m.

“We helped establish what Minnesota is supposed to be,” Condon said. “It’s great to see it turn around like that. I can’t say we can take all the credit for it. We’ve got a lot of good guys in the classes under us, but it’s nice to go out leaving [the program] better than where it was when you came in.”

The five aren’t stars. Condon, co-captain with junior Kyle Rau, has seven goals and Serratore three. Defensemen Holl and Parenteau haven’t scored this season, and backup goalie Shibrowski has played in only four games. But they have been “character” players who helped revive a struggling program.

Gophers hockey was at a low point when the Class of 2014 came onto the scene. The excitement of back-to-back national championships in the early 2000s had faded behind three consecutive seasons of mediocrity (2007-2010).

A quick fix

The team missed the NCAA tournament for a second consecutive season in 2010 and finished below .500 (18-19-2). Coach Don Lucia was in the middle of a health scare, and there was a need to fix the Gophers’ problem fast.

The solution came in a mix of size, skill, strength and maturity, found in a recruiting class that included the Fab Five and future NHL players Nick Bjugstad, Nate Schmidt and Erik Haula, among others. Lucia didn’t give the freshmen much time to adapt to college hockey and it was obvious during their rookie season (2010-2011). They missed the NCAAs once again and finished 16-14-6, but the 10 freshmen who played most nights grew up quickly.

“You could see the ability was there, they just needed experience,” Lucia said. “That’s why the next year all of a sudden we won the league and ended up going to the Frozen Four. … A lot of those guys are real program guys. They really care about the University of Minnesota. That was the most important thing. Their focus when they were here was, ‘I want to get the Gophers program where it needs to be.’ ”

Though several standouts from the original recruiting class are now succeeding at the pro level and played a big role in reshaping the program, the five who remained knew there was still work to be done.

It was during a summer retreat catching fish and playing whiffle ball at a cabin in Alexandria, Minn., that the group and senior manager Alex Kurth set goals for the final season and reminisced on what they’ve managed to achieve.

It was also on the lake that the name Fab Five came to life.

Welcome wagon

With so many freshmen on this year’s team (seven), it was hard to set expectations. Instead, they set a standard of equality to bridge the gap from young to old. Holl said they left the summer retreat with the goal of being good leaders and making everyone feel welcome, like they had a role on the team.

The plan has produced one of the Gophers’ best seasons (25-6-6) in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year.

“Everyone wants to be the class that helps out and turns a program around, and we’ve been fortunate to play with some good players throughout our four years here,” Serratore said.

Throughout the season, Serratore has been referred to as the Gophers’ “heart and soul.” The almost 25-year-old forward isn’t flashy, has a quiet demeanor, but is the type of guy teammates rally around because of his work ethic.

Lucia has started to target players like Serratore while recruiting. Their unselfish attitude will help maintain what this group of seniors has set in motion, he said.

“Every time one of the freshmen crack a joke that we’re one of the old guys, we always remind them we’re the five legends of the team or the five legacies that have stuck around for four years,” Condon said.

The co-captain stole the Fab Five nickname from Michigan basketball’s team in the early 1990s and chuckles at the comparison.

However, he’s betting college hockey’s Fab Five can finish the job Michigan’s storied group never could: Win a national championship.

  • related content

  • Video: Serratore among Gophers hockey's Fab Five seniors

    Saturday March 29, 2014

    Gophers forward Tom Serratore is one of five seniors that have helped reshape the Gophers hockey program.

  • Scoggins: Robert Morris turned season around halfway through

    Saturday March 29, 2014

    Derek Schooley’s to-do list stretched a mile long after Robert Morris University started its men’s hockey program 10 years ago.Schooley’s...

  • A briefing on West Regional

    Saturday March 29, 2014

    The NCAA West Regional at Xcel Energy Center has been touted as the most competitive of the four regionals. Here’s...

  • NCAA men's hockey bracket, results

    Monday March 31, 2014

  • The Gophers’ Fab Five — from left, seniors Tom Serratore, Jake Parenteau, Nate Condon, Justin Holl and Michael Shibrowski — hope to end their careers with the NCAA title.

  • Co-captain Nate Condon is one of five seniors — from a recruiting class of 10 — still on the team. He’s proud he helped the Gophers regain their previous elite status in college hockey.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Baltimore - LP: K. Gausman 1 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - WP: J. Arrieta 4
Houston - WP: T. Sipp 5 FINAL
Cleveland - LP: C. Allen 1
San Francisco - WP: T. Hudson 10 FINAL
Washington - LP: D. Fister 3
St. Louis - LP: A. Wainwright 4 FINAL
Philadelphia - WP: K. Kendrick 5
Chicago WSox - LP: D. Webb 3 FINAL
NY Yankees - WP: D. Robertson 4
Tampa Bay - WP: D. Smyly 8 FINAL
Toronto - LP: M. Stroman 0
Atlanta - WP: D. Hale 3 FINAL
Cincinnati - LP: M. Parra 1
Seattle - WP: D. Leone 5 FINAL
Boston - LP: K. Uehara 3
Kansas City - WP: Y. Ventura 6 FINAL
Texas - LP: C. Lewis 3
Pittsburgh - WP: J. Locke 8 FINAL
Milwaukee - LP: Y. Gallardo 3
Detroit - LP: R. Ray 6 FINAL
Minnesota - WP: R. Pressly 20
Miami - WP: H. Alvarez 13 FINAL
Colorado - LP: F. Morales 5
San Diego - LP: O. Despaigne 1 FINAL
Arizona - WP: J. Collmenter 5
LA Angels - LP: J. Grilli 3 FINAL
Oakland - WP: S. Gray 5
NY Mets - LP: J. Niese 2 FINAL
Los Angeles - WP: D. Haren 6
Carolina 7 FINAL
New England 30
NY Giants 35 FINAL
NY Jets 24
Jacksonville 12 FINAL
Detroit 13
Oakland 21 FINAL
Green Bay 31
Chicago 6 FINAL
Seattle 34
Tampa Bay 8/23/14 3:30 PM
Buffalo
Tennessee 8/23/14 6:00 PM
Atlanta
Dallas 8/23/14 6:00 PM
Miami
Washington 8/23/14 6:30 PM
Baltimore
New Orleans 8/23/14 7:00 PM
Indianapolis
Minnesota 8/23/14 7:00 PM
Kansas City
St. Louis 8/23/14 7:00 PM
Cleveland
Houston 8/23/14 8:00 PM
Denver
San Diego 8/24/14 3:00 PM
San Francisco
Cincinnati 8/24/14 7:00 PM
Arizona
Atlanta 8/28/14 5:00 PM
Jacksonville
Detroit 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Buffalo
Indianapolis 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Kansas City 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Green Bay
NY Jets 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
St. Louis 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Miami
Carolina 8/28/14 6:30 PM
Pittsburgh
New England 8/28/14 6:30 PM
NY Giants
Washington 8/28/14 6:30 PM
Tampa Bay
Baltimore 8/28/14 7:00 PM
New Orleans
Chicago 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Cleveland
Denver 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Dallas
Minnesota 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Tennessee
San Francisco 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Houston
Arizona 8/28/14 9:00 PM
San Diego
Seattle 8/28/14 9:00 PM
Oakland
(21) Texas A&M 8/28/14 5:00 PM
(9) So Carolina
Wake Forest 8/28/14 6:00 PM
ULM
Boise State 8/28/14 7:00 PM
(18) Ole Miss
Tulane 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Temple 8/28/14 8:15 PM
Vanderbilt
Rutgers 8/28/14 9:00 PM
Washington St
Weber State 8/28/14 9:30 PM
(19) Arizona State
BYU 8/29/14 6:00 PM
Connecticut
(6) Jacksonville St 8/29/14 6:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Bowling Green 8/29/14 6:30 PM
Western Ky
TX-San Antonio 8/29/14 8:00 PM
Houston
Colorado State 8/29/14 8:00 PM
Colorado
UNLV 8/29/14 9:30 PM
Arizona
UCF 8/30/14 7:30 AM
Penn State
Real Salt Lake 1 FINAL
FC Dallas 2
Montreal 16 FINAL
Winnipeg 24
Toronto 8/23/14 3:00 PM
Edmonton
Calgary 8/24/14 2:00 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 8/24/14 6:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Ottawa 8/29/14 6:30 PM
Montreal
Winnipeg 8/31/14 2:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Toronto 9/1/14 12:00 PM
Hamilton
Edmonton 9/1/14 3:30 PM
Calgary
Chicago 80 FINAL
Atlanta 77
Los Angeles 72 FINAL
Phoenix 75
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Which football team will have the best record in 2014?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close