Gophers men's hockey coach Don Lucia, saying he is feeling pretty good, headed for Mayo Clinic in Rochester on Sunday for some tests. On Tuesday, he will return home and start treatment that he hopes will cure the mysterious ailment he has been suffering with for several weeks.

"I hope that's the end of it, and they can start me on a treatment plan, because it's been a long couple of weeks, that's for sure," he said.

Lucia said it all started on his wife's birthday, right before Christmas.

"We were eating something and I felt some tingling in my mouth," he recalled. "I thought it just might be a little bit of an allergic reaction to what I was eating.

"As we went through Christmas time, the numbness started to worsen to the point where on a Friday after Christmas, I called one of my old friends who was a trainer with me and gave him my symptoms, and he said, 'You've got to go to the doctor right away.'"

So that Saturday, he went to a local emergency room. Lucia described the symptoms, and said the doctors were worried about a stroke or aneurysm because of the numbness in the left side of his face. But when they looked at the CAT scans, everything was clean.

"The next day I had to go back into the ER because the headaches were so severe, I just couldn't handle them anymore," Lucia said. "That's when they called in a neurologist to re-look at my scans, and they spotted something that was in what's called Meckel's cave -- your trigeminal nerve comes through there onto your face.

"There was a growth in there that was squeezing off that nerve. So then it became a [question of] what is it? What is that growth that's in there? So [there were] a lot of tests and then finally I couldn't go to North Dakota [for the Gophers-Sioux series on Jan. 9-10] because I had to do a biopsy, where they did a needle biopsy up in there. They got enough tissue, thankfully, that they could do a read that it was not lymphoma. That was one of the things that we were looking at. Was it lymphoma, was it an inflammation, was it an infection?

"So they're kind of down now to it's either going to be an infection or it's an inflammation, and how they treat that is a little bit different. So [after] these final couple of tests [at Mayo Clinic] they will hopefully come to a conclusion and I can start a treatment process here later this week."

Lucia said Dr. [Joe] Colgan, whose son, Mike, was a defenseman for Lucia at Colorado College, has been the point person at Mayo Clinic working with him. He's also grateful to a number of local doctors. "Dr. [Richard] Feist is my personal doctor and used to be our team physician here at the U. He's a great guy," Lucia said.

Asked how he felt while coaching this past weekend against St. Cloud State, Lucia said: "The hard part right now, my face, it's like you come out of the dentist's office with a bunch of shots of Novocain," he said. "I really, from my eye to my jaw to my tongue, the left side of my tongue and cheek, you just can't feel anything. ... I felt good to get back on the ice on Monday, back to practice. I felt bad that I wasn't there the previous weekend, when we kind of ran into a freight train up in Grand Forks and didn't play particularly well [losing 6-3 and 6-1]. You feel guilt that you're not there and trying to do something to help the team.

"It was a good bounce back for us this weekend [with 5-1 and 8-6 victories over the Huskies]. We have great respect for St. Cloud and certainly Bob [Motzko, the Huskies coach] and the job that he and his staff do there."

Frazier has hope

Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier was a finalist for the Denver and St. Louis head coaching jobs. Although he was disappointed he didn't land either post, he said he felt he made progress in his goal to become a head coach with his interviews this year.

"From everything I was told, I was right at the end on the Denver one and the St. Louis one, right down to the end, so I think I made progress," Frazier said. "St. Louis didn't call me until [Saturday] night, and I was told I was in it right to the end.

"You learn a little bit more each time you do it. You learn something about each team as well.

"I felt like I was qualified and in position to be a head coach. But, you know, it just means there's something bigger and better for me here in Minnesota, and I'm looking forward to 2009. I'm not overly concerned about it. I think the opportunity will come someday."

Frazier certainly is qualified to be a head coach as much or more than some of those who were hired, according to people in the know. He has been around football a lot longer than the 32-year-old coaches hired at Denver (Josh McDaniels) and Tampa Bay (Raheem Morris).

"I really believe I'm supposed to be in Minnesota in 2009," he said. "It wasn't time for me to go to St. Louis or Denver or somewhere else."

Frazier is convinced he will coach the best defense in the NFL next year.

"No question. If we get all our guys back we should have a good defense," he said. "We had a good defense this past season, and we should improve if we get everybody back."


Gophers football coach Tim Brewster said he has seen three or four preseason polls with the Gophers ranked as high as 20th for the 2009 season.

Lucia said the University of Minnesota is leading the charge to get Bemidji State into the WCHA. The school is in the process of building a new arena.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said the back problems that handicapped first baseman Justin Morneau at the end of the season are no longer a problem. ... Kevin Cosgrove, the new Gophers co-defensive coordinator, said he had opportunities to coach last year after Nebraska brought in a new staff, but he decided to take the year off. New Gophers offensive line coach/running game coordinator Tim Davis and Cosgrove were on the same Wisconsin football staff from 1997 to 2001.

Nick Rengel, the all-around Sartell athlete who has committed to the Gophers football team, will redshirt this year after injuring his knee during his senior year. ... Duane Bennett, the No. 1 Gophers running back who suffered a serious knee injury in the Bowling Green game last season and whose absence might have cost the Gophers a couple of victories, is 100 percent healthy and will be able to take part in spring practice.

Former Gophers men's basketball coach Jim Molinari is in his first season as the head coach of the Western Illinois Leathernecks. Molinari was an assistant coach last season at Ball State. Western Illinois started the season 3-8 in nonconference play but has compiled an early 3-4 record in the Summit League, and are in fifth place in the conference.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on his Podcast once a week at