The Gophers are playing for more than a sweep and points in the conference race on Friday night. A victory against Michigan State would be veteran coach Don Lucia's 391st win leading the Gophers and make him the storied program's all-time winningest coach.
Lucia is in his 16th season with the Gophers and his 28th season as a college hockey head coach. His career record is 669-354-97 with a 390-199-68 record at Minnesota. Lucia tied longtime coach Doug Woog with his 390th win on Thursday night, a 5-3 comeback victory against the Spartans.
The players were aware of what was at stake this weekend.
"Definitely," motivation to win, Gophers senior Sam Warning said. "It's going to be hard game, Michigan State is a tough team, so obviously we want to go out there and get coach a milestone win."
Standout goaltender Adam Wilcox should be back in the net for what could be s special night at Mariucci Arena. Wilcox sat out of Thursday night's victory nursing a minor lower-body injury, but Lucia said his veteran goaltender would likely start Friday's game.
Lucia didn't spend much time thinking about the milestone after Thursday's victory, saying there won't be any nerves leading up to Friday's finale.
"It's all about trying to win [Friday] night," he said. "If we beat Michigan State, where we are in the standings at the end of the year, that's what it's all about."
• Four goaltenders from in-state college hockey programs picked up nominations for the Mike Richter Award honoring the nation’s top goalie.
Gophers junior goaltender Adam Wilcox, Minnesota State junior Stephon Williams, Bemidji State freshman Michael Bitzer and St. Cloud State sophomore Charlie Lindgren were among the 28 nominees announced by Let’s Play Hockey and the Herb Brooks Foundation on Friday.
Read more about the 28 nominees and four in-state standouts.
• Gophers' Friday lines
Forwards (left wing, center, right wing)
Leon Bristedt, Kyle Rau, Hudson Fasching
Sam Warning, Travis Boyd, Seth Ambroz
Taylor Cammarata, Justin Kloos, Vinni Lettieri
A.J. Michaelson, Christian Isackson, Jack Glover
Defensemen (left, right)
Brady Skjei, Ryan Collins
Mike Reilly, Jake Bischoff
Ben Marshall, Michael Brodzinski
Adam Wilcox, Nick Lehr, Ryan Coyne
Thursday replay: Five unanswered goals lift Gophers over Spartans as freshman backup goaltender Nick Lehr picks up first career win in first start, read Thursday night's game story and postgame blog. Watch postgame video of Gophers freshman goaltender Nick Lehr and coach Don Lucia.
• Series Preview: No. 15 Gophers vs. Michigan State
8:12 p.m. Friday at Mariucci Arena
TV/live stream/radio: BTN, BTN2Go and 1500-AM.
Minnesota (18-10-3, 9-3-3 Big Ten): The Gophers know they control their destiny in the Big Ten race entering the three remaining regular-season series. They don’t need help from anyone to defend their title, they just need to win and are hoping that a home-ice advantage in four of the last six games will help.
For more on Michigan State and its standout goaltender, read the full series preview.
• The Gophers are 7-1-1 over their nine eight games and have climbed back into the rankings and playoff picture thanks to the revival of the senior class. Read about the six veteran's run of success and watch video of coach Don Lucia and senior forward Seth Ambroz previewing this weekend's series.