Minnesota looks to avenge woes

The Gophers fell to Yale last season and are looking for a bounce-back year.

Minnesota forward Nate Condon controls the puck against Michigan at Mariucci on Friday, February, 14, 2015.

Daily File Photo, Chelsea Gortmaker

Minnesota forward Nate Condon controls the puck against Michigan at Mariucci on Friday, February, 14, 2015.

Megan Ryan

The Gophers men’s hockey team has something to prove, which may seem unusual for a program that’s been ranked No. 1 for most of the regular season.

But lately, Minnesota has struggled to put together postseason success.

While the Gophers came out on top of the Big Ten regular season during the final weekend, they lost in an upset to Ohio State in the Big Ten tournament last weekend.

And last year, Minnesota lost in its first game of the WCHA Final Five before bowing out in the first round of the NCAA tournament to Yale — the eventual champion.

Gophers sophomore defenseman Mike Reilly said those results show that his team needs to demonstrate why it’s considered one of the best in the nation.

“We’re not just great in the regular season,” he said. “We can play in March and hopefully out in April.”

Minnesota senior captain Nate Condon recalled that his class has never won a conference tournament of any kind. His freshman year, the Gophers didn’t even make it past the WCHA first round or into the NCAA tournament.

His sophomore year, the Gophers lost in the first game of the Final Five but advanced to the NCAA Frozen Four.

That’s what Condon said he’s hoping his team can accomplish again this year.

A loss in the conference tournament can be good motivation or a setback, he said. The same could be said of the NCAA first-round loss last year, which Condon said still haunts the Gophers.

“It’s just more cautionary to our team that even though we’re a top seed, anyone that made the tournament obviously deserves to be there,” he said.

Condon said it’s important for his team to remember the past and improve on it so it isn’t stunned again by a low seed.

Gophers sophomore goaltender Adam Wilcox is looking at the positives of his team’s conference tournament flop.

“If you’re going to lose a game,” he said, “better lose it in the Big Ten rather than the NCAA, because this is the Big Dance.”

While the national stage can be somewhat daunting, Wilcox said he’s managing it just as if his team was still playing in the regular season.

“We just have to win four games,” he said. “We’ve won four games in a row multiple times this year. It’s nothing we can’t do against good teams.”