Junior goalie Alex Kangas said he is ready for the Sioux this weekend.
"This is it," he said. "We feel like we have got to win out from here."
Kangas has that right.
Adam Wodon, the manager of College Hockey News, writes about the NCAA tournament and studies the PairWise rankings that mimic the way a selection committee picks the at-large teams.
Wodon said the NCAA tournament expanded in 2003 to 16 teams, no team lower than No. 18 in the PairWise rankings at the end of the regular season has made the field as an at-large.
Colgate was 18th in 2005. The Gophers? They are tied for No. 23.
"The problem is, there just aren't enough games left for a team like Minnesota to make up ground," Wodon wrote in an e-mail to me. "At most, [the Gophers] will play six. If Minnesota goes 4-2, that's not good enough.
"[Going] 4-1 probably isn't good enough either. [That would mean the Gophers swept the Sioux and lost in either the semifinals or championship game of the Final Five.] And 5-0 obviously gets them a WCHA championship -- at which point this is all moot."
If the Gophers win the Final Five, they get one of six automatic spots reserved for the champions in the six conference tournaments.
"We've got to lay it all on the line," Kangas said, referring to this weekend's series. "We know it is going to be a war. It is never easy to play up there. But we know it will be a great atmosphere and I'm looking forward to it."
Kangas has a 2.16 goals-against average and a .926 save percentage in his last seven games.
"We figureit is going to be low-scoring games, tight-checking and all that sort of thing." Kangas said. "Specialty teams are going to be big. We've got to be ready to play, we've got to play a full 60 minutes and do all the little things that it takes to win."
CABLE TV QUESTION ANSWERED
The Gophers' hockey games on Friday and, if needed, on Sunday are being shown on alternate channels. This is confusing some people.
One big hockey fan wanted to know if Comcast would show the game on any other channel than 692, which is a digital station.
I didn't know so I called Dave Nyberg, the senior corporate affairs manager for Comcast.
His answer was anyone who has been able to watch games on FSN should be able to see the games on Friday and Sunday. He said even those with a basic two-level service are eligible to pick up a digital box for no cost at Comcast payment centers.
He said most basc two-level service customers have already done so. If not, say I, you better hurry. Who knows how many digital boxes each payment center has on hand.
FSN (or Fox Sports North) reaches more than 3 million homes throughout Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and North and South Dakota.
|Cable One (Fargo/Moorhead)||44|
|Hiawatha Broadband (Winona)||20|
If there is a third game on Sunday, it will be on the same channels except the game on Dish will be on 450.
FINAL FIVE SELLING
Kathy O'Connor, the director of pubic and media relations for the Xcel, said ticket sales for the Final Five are going well, but the total number purchased is down slightly.
"It is nothing we are concerned about," she said. "Regardless of the teams, each team has a strong following. North Dakota, Duluth and St. Cloud bring strong followings."
Either Minnesota, which has the biggest fan base in the Twin Cities, or North Dakota will not be in the Final Five for the first time since 2002. That year the Sioux lost to the Gophers in a first-round series. This year Minnesota is the underdog in a best-of-three series at Grand Forks, N.D.
"The tournament has always done well," she said. "It's taken on a life of its own. Core college hockey fans continue to come and have a lot of fun."
O'Connor said every year the number of season tickets for all games is limited.
"We want to make the tournament accessible to everyone," she said, "and affordable to students."
Single-game tickets went on sale this week, although season ticket packages are still available as well.
O'Connor said the single-game tickets really start selling after the five teams participating are determined. "People wait to see," she said.
The last four Final Fives all have drawn more than 80,000 fans. Last year the attendance was 82,065.