The Gopher men’s hockey team is headed back to the NCAA Tournament.
After a year hiatus, the Gophers are back in the NCAA Tournament. They’ll be the No. 1 seed at Northeast Regional in Manchester, NH. Don Lucia’s club will square off against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish (Lucia’s alma mater) in the opening round of the tournament. Cornell and UMass Lowell will also be in the regional. The Gophers secured the last No. 1 seed for a regional as the team was watching the scoreboard over the weekend after falling to Penn State in the opening round of the Big Ten Tournament on Friday. With the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs winning the NCHC Frozen Faceoff over North Dakota on Saturday, Minnesota leapfrogged back into the top four. If North Dakota had won, the team would have been a No. 2 seed heading to a regional.
With the Gophers having the last No. 1 seed, they’ll arguably have the toughest road to the Frozen Four. However the team is just happy to be back at the tournament.
“At this point in the season, you’re going to have to beat a good team to keep your season alive,” Senior captain Justin Kloos said. “We’re more worried about Saturday’s game against Notre Dame before we move on from that.”
Notre Dame will join the Big Ten conference next season and although the Gophers didn’t see the Irish this season, the team is very familiar with how they play.
“It’s a team we’ve seen the last four years,” Head coach Don Lucia said to reporters on Sunday. “So we know them; they know us. They have some high end guys; an outstanding goalie in Cal Peterson and a very mobile defensive group. It should be a great matchup, a very good regional with all four teams; we’re looking forward to being back in a regional.”
The Gophers are 27-15-3 all-time against Notre Dame. The team is also 1-0 in the NCAA Tournament as the Maroon & Gold defeated Notre Dame 5-2 in the 2004 at an NCAA regional. This is the 37th NCAA Tournament berth for the Gophers which is ties them with the Michigan Wolverines for an NCAA record.
Penn State and Ohio State also made the tournament field from the Big Ten conference. The Buckeyes are in the West Regional in Fargo while the Nittany Lions are in the Midwest Regional in Cincinnati.
Stay tuned later this week to 1500ESPN.com for in-depth preview of the Northeast Regional.