For coverage of the Minnesota Golden Gophers, check out our SBNation network sister site, The Daily Gopher. The guys over there were kind enough to discuss the Frozen Four.
1. For many BC fans making the trip to the Frozen Four, part of the attraction is that no matter what happens in our game on Thursday at 5 PM, we'll have the pleasure of sitting back and watching the world burn in the nightcap between Minnesota and North Dakota. Tell me about your perspective on the rivalry, why your side is better, why the other side sucks, etc. etc.
GoAUpher: Don't just sit there and watch things burn. Actively root for truth, justice, and THE ALLIANCE! Also, UND copied the Dallas Stars for their jerseys. No one should support that.
gopherguy05: If you don't know why MN is better you are a horrible hockey fan. Seriously...you have beaten UND enough in the NCAAs to know all about them.
GoAUpher: In other words, GOONS. UND is a dirty Canadian Juniors team.
2. Much like BC, Minnesota didn't have the best ending to the regular season, but rebounded nicely in the regionals. Most notable in Minnesota's stumbles was that loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten tournament. What happened there? Do you see any warning signs of holes demonstrated in Minnesota's game despite being such an outstanding team all year?
gopherguy05: Momentary blip to go along with taking the foot off the pedal in the regular season finale against Michigan. I think the ship has been rightened and the Gophers are ready to go now.
GoAUpher: I'm inclined to agree with gg05. I suppose the season ending loss to Michigan could have been considered a warning sign, but that would have been more indicative of a lack of focus or intensity rather than any holes in the team. Even then, the Gophers had several chances to finish off OSU in that tournament game and were simply unable to capitalize (Christian Frey had something to do with that too).
3. The other three teams in this tournament have a real headline-grabbing player - Gaudreau at BC, Gostisbehere at Union and Grimaldi at North Dakota. Minnesota's story has been one of offensive balance. Other than the goaltender Wilcox (we'll get to him in a bit) who stands out to you as someone who is likely to be a difference-maker in Philadelphia?
GoAUpher: Well, I'll tweak the question a little bit. The guys I would like to see be difference makers (not necessarily the most likely) would be either Sam Warning or Nate Condon. Sam went through a midseason lull after starting the season out hot and I'd like to see him finish the year strong. The same holds true for Nate Condon. I'm a fan of the speedy senior forward and I'd love for him to play a big role in one final win over UND.
gopherguy05: I think it will be one of our third line guys, probably Travis Boyd or Seth Ambroz. Both have shown that they can play defensive shutdown hockey on an oppopents top line yet find the net when needed.
4. Speaking of Wilcox - he's faced considerably more rubber this year than he did last year (nearly 4 shots more per game) but continues to put up outstanding numbers. For those who don't see him often, how do you describe Wilcox's goaltending style?
GoAUpher: Extremely impressive. I'm not a goaltending guru so I won't try to get super specifc with this. I'll try to sum it up with the following:
- He's on pace to set the all time single season record for save %
- TDG readers refer to him as #WALLCOX a lot of the time
5. What about the Gophers looks different now than what BC fans may have seen watching the Eagles and the Gophers play in October?
gopherguy05: Probably not a whole lot. Minnesota wins as a team. Nothing flashy but they can overwhelm you with depth and get key goals from a 1st liner or a 4th liner.
GoAUpher: You might see some scoring from different guys then you saw in October. The benefits of a balanced scoring attack I guess.
6. What kind of game will Minnesota be looking to establish against the REDACTED? What kind of signs early on would indicate that Minnesota is on its game?
GoAUpher: Minnesota plays better when they can establish the style and tone of a game. If you see the Gophers forcing shots from above the circles into blocking defenders early, that would be a potentially bad sign. If you see them pressing their advantage on offense and creating more quality chances then you're seeing the kind of game they want to establish.
gopherguy05: The Gophers will want to come out and control the game from the time the puck drops. Don't give UND a chance to settle in. Getting an early lead will be key in this one.
7. How did you enjoy year one of B1G hockey?
GoAUpher: It was ok. My HATE for the move was mostly part of the overall Minny zeitgeist. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't a fan of it since the Gophers already played UW every season but I adjusted to the new opponents pretty quickly (the Michigan matchup will hit HATE levels soon I think). Still dislike some of the stupid Thurs/Fri and Sun/Mon series but overall I'm good now. Watching the Gophers win the first title helped of course.
gopherguy05: Eh it is what it is. Give it 5 years and it may rival Hockey East as the best top to bottom conference. For now I'll take winning the thing.
8. Two-part question: do you have a prediction for Thursday's games? and if Minnesota wins, who do you think would be a better matchup for them, Union or BC? Be honest.
gopherguy05: I'll go full homer. I think this is finally our year to break through. 5-2 win with an empty net goal over UND and a great back and forth heart attack inducing 5-4 MN win over BC on Saturday for title #6.
GoAUpher: I'm going to say Minnesota wins 4-2 with an ENG to seal it. BC gets another challenge but heads to the finals with a 3-1 victory. Minnesota over BC 4-3 in the Championship on Saturday.