Frozen Four players don't mind extra wait

  • Article by: JASON GONZALEZ , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 2, 2014 - 5:55 AM

The NCAA semifinalists will endure a break of at least 11 days between games, but they plan to make the most of it.

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Gophers coach Don Lucia had to like what he saw on the scoreboard during his team’s 4-0 victory over St. Cloud State. Now comes the wait until April 10 for the Frozen Four.

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Extra time to prepare for the Frozen Four isn’t a bad thing — at least according to “Johnny Hockey.”

Boston College winger Johnny Gaudreau, the nation’s leading scorer and Hobey Baker Award favorite, said skipping a weekend between the NCAA hockey regionals and the Frozen Four will be just fine.

“It’s fun to be at practice and hanging out this time of year,” Gaudreau said Tuesday. “We’re just making sure we’re having good practices throughout the week. Right now we’re playing good hockey, and we have to make sure we stay energized.”

Both the Gophers and Boston College gained Frozen Four berths on Sunday, a day after North Dakota and Union advanced. But the Frozen Four semifinals — the Gophers face North Dakota and BC plays Union — aren’t until April 10 in Philadelphia.

The weekend off, to avoid conflict with the NCAA basketball Final Fours, might cause the teams to lose momentum. Several Gophers felt they played their best game of the season in Sunday’s 4-0 victory over St. Cloud State.

Nate Condon, however, greets the long break with the same enthusiasm as Gaudreau. The Gophers senior center says the team will gain motivation knowing rival North Dakota is waiting in the semifinals.

“North Dakota is one of our favorite games, especially for our upperclassmen, so just having it at a Frozen Four setting will help even more getting us motivated,” Condon said. “We might have more fun this week since we do have a long break before the games, but when it comes down to it, the guys will be ready to go.”

Gophers coach Don Lucia has been on both sides of Frozen Four scheduling. His 1997 Colorado College Frozen Four team played in a national semifinal four days after advancing through the regional. His four previous trips to the Frozen Four with the Gophers (2002, 2003, 2005, 2012) all included a week off. Lucia understands the reasoning for the week off but wouldn’t be against moving the tournament up a few days.

“It’s a quick turnaround when you play in your regional on Saturday or Sunday and you’re at the Frozen Four three or four days later,” Lucia said. “For a fan’s perspective and planning purposes, the extra days help. Maybe it’d be great if [the Frozen Four] was a few days earlier … but we all have to go through it. And we’ve been through it enough times to understand how you play in the following Thursday. So I don’t know how much of a bearing [the scheduling is] going to have with a few extra days off.’’

Time off could be an advantage for Boston College. The Eagles are heading into their third weekend of no hockey in the past month and have become comfortable with the extra time to prepare.

They earned a bye in the first round of the Hockey East tournament, then lost a best-of-three quarterfinal series, forcing the group into another week off before the NCAA tournament.

However, last weekend’s run through the Northeast Regional showed no signs of rust from the extra breaks. Gaudreau, a junior who played on BC’s 2012 title team, had eight points in two games and leads the nation in goals (35), assists (42) and points (77).

“We’re certainly getting used to [extra time off]. … It’s become par for the course,” BC coach Jerry York said. “But we all get here by different routes. … You start from scratch this weekend and have good practices and get ready to play.”

Union coach Rick Bennett likes the scheduling format. It gives players a chance to get back in the routine of school and enables the student body to rally around the programs, he said.

Union senior defenseman Mat Bodie said he is hopeful that any accumulated rust is gone five minutes into the game. Boston College already had scored two goals by that point in Saturday’s Northeast Regional opener in its first game in 13 days.

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