Minnesota-Duluth wins NCAA title; how does it affect the Gophers?

Nicolas Hallett

This past Saturday Minnesota-Duluth defeated Michigan 3-2 in overtime to claim the programs first ever men’s hockey national title.  However, while watching the Bulldogs’ proudly lift their NCAA championship trophy something felt amiss.  Where were the Gophers?

Even Duluth captain Mike Montgomery mentioned them in his initial Frozen Four press conference.

“Really the pressure is on the Gophers–,” he said, poking fun at his in-state rivals’ obvious absence.

Whether Duluth can join the ranks of multiple title winning programs such as the Gophers is yet to be seen, but certainly the Bulldogs’ becoming the only other national champion in the state of hockey will have some implications.  Minnesota head coach Don Lucia refrained from guessing at what those may be. 

“I don’t think there is any effect on Gopher hockey,” Lucia said. “It’s not a negative on us, more of a positive for [Minnesota-Duluth].”

Though winning the Frozen Four is an obvious windfall for Duluth hockey, Gopher faithful may disagree with such a devil-may-care attitude from Lucia, especially with the increasing threat from the Bulldogs.  In terms of recruiting, and specifically in-state player battles, the addition of a NCAA championship to their resume is something that will unequivocally help the Bulldogs.

“To me, we now have the perfect package,” said Minnesota-Duluth assistant coach Brett Larson. “We have 3 big aspects now, the ability to develop kids to play in the NHL, a brand new [$80 million dollar] facility, and now a national championship.”

As a reward the team got to throw out the first pitch on Sunday at Target field.  Perpetually Minnesota-Duluth is seen as the understudy to “older brother” Minnesota, however for once it didn’t feel that way.

“It was really neat to have all the Twins fans cheering for us,” Larson said.  “It felt like everyone embraced us as Minnesota’s team for the weekend.”