Column: Gophers must meet potential in Frozen Four, ya feel me?

Samuel Gordon

Ahalf-empty Xcel Energy Center watched top-seeded Minnesota tangle with St. Cloud State with a trip to the Frozen Four on the line.

Those who stayed home didn’t miss much.

This Sunday’s game was more one-sided than a chubby kid on a teeter-totter.

Minnesota dominated the game from the drop of the puck en route to a 4-0 win. As the final horn sounded, players mobbed goaltender Adam Wilcox in celebration.

The Gophers will return to the Frozen Four for the second time in three years. Yes, a trip to the Frozen Four is a big victory for the program, but it’s not enough anymore.

Maybe at other schools going to the Frozen Four is enough.

Maybe at other schools titles from decades past are still revered.

But this is Minnesota. And success in Minnesota, especially in hockey, is measured a little differently.

Former Gophers captain Taylor Matson, who helped lead Minnesota to its last Frozen Four in 2012, said it best a couple of years ago: You come to Minnesota to hang banners.

The Gophers haven’t hung a national championship banner since 2003. They are the premier institution in the State of Hockey and haven’t won a title in more than 10 years. That could all change in Philadelphia in a couple of weeks.

This year’s group is rife with talent, and it appears to have all the makings of a national champion.

They boast an elite freshman class, coupled with strong veteran leadership.

They trot out Wilcox, the best netminder in the country.

They boast a well-balanced offense, with every line more than capable of scoring that key goal. They’re stingy defensively, too.

Now it’s up to Minnesota to do what it hasn’t the last two seasons: cash in on its potential.

Minnesota has done that early in the NCAA tournament, easily beating Robert Morris and St. Cloud State, but it’ll only get harder for the Gophers moving forward.

Minnesota will square off with archrival North Dakota in the Frozen Four. The longtime foes didn’t play this year because of the WCHA disbanding.

North Dakota is famous for starting slow, putting together a great second half of the season and peaking at tournament time. That looks to be happening yet again.

But this time the Gophers appear to be peaking, too.

After the game, Wilcox said the Gophers played two of their most complete games this weekend.

“Six complete periods of just giving it to the other team,” he said.

In two weeks, they’ll need six more.

Ya feel me?