Lucia expects low-scoring game

Practice this week will focus on defense for Saturday’s game with Notre Dame.

by Lou Raguse

Minnesota’s men’s hockey team took Monday off to heal from bumps taken while beating Minnesota-Duluth and North Dakota en route to the WCHA Final Five title.

Tuesday, the Gophers got back to work in preparation for their NCAA Regional game against Notre Dame on Saturday in Grand Rapids, Mich.

Coach Don Lucia is gearing the focus toward defense, and said he expects a lower-scoring game against the Irish.

“Notre Dame’s a very good defensive team,” said Lucia, who was an assistant captain for the Irish in the 1980-81 season. “We want to keep the tempo up, but make sure we’re playing well defensively.”

Winning the Broadmoor Trophy on Saturday marked the first time this season Minnesota has matched the accomplishments of last season’s national championship team.

Lucia said that by beating the Bulldogs and Sioux, who defeated Minnesota a combined seven times during the regular season, the Gophers played top-level hockey.

“To beat the teams we beat on back-to-back nights is quite an accomplishment,” Lucia said. “It forced us to be our best.”

The NCAA selection turned out just as Lucia expected, and he noted the high representation of western hockey teams in the national tournament.

The CCHA is sending five teams to the Regionals, led by league tournament champion Ohio State, the No. 2 seed in the East.

The NCAA committee also selected five WCHA teams, with the Gophers and Sioux as top seeds in the Midwest and West Regionals. Denver and Minnesota-Duluth were given No. 2 seeds, and Wisconsin No. 3.

“There’s a good chance there’ll be a couple WCHA teams in the Final Four,” Lucia said.

Sioux still No. 1

North Dakota earned the overall top seed in the tournament, and they will face Holy Cross on Friday in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Sioux coach Dean Blais said although his team’s hard-nosed defense is well suited for smaller-sized rinks, he has no worries about playing at World Arena.

“The Olympic-sized ice sheet doesn’t bother us,” Blais said. “We skate as well as anyone and move the puck and get to the openings. We’re going to be fine.”

Denver plays Miami (Ohio) in the other West regional game, and if the Pioneers and Sioux both win, they will face each other in the West Regional championship Sunday.

Badgers regroup

The NCAA committee placed Wisconsin in the East Regional in Albany, N.Y.

The Badgers will face Ohio State on Saturday and are looking to bounce back after being eliminated from the WCHA tournament by Alaska-Anchorage.

“The kids are excited,” Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves said. “We get another kick at the can.”

Eaves also said that being placed in the East Region and having to travel to New York is no problem for his team.

“Heck, we travel to Alaska, and this is a shorter trip than that,” he said. “We’re just happy to have another shot at (advancing in the playoffs).”