COLORADO SPRINGS — With a decisive sweep of Colorado College in its first-round playoff series, the Minnesota men’s hockey team earned a trip to this weekend’s Final Five tournament at Target Center.
By virtue of winning in two games, the Gophers had a much deserved day off Sunday. Unfortunately, they received no help from the teams still playing.
Denver’s 9-4 loss at North Dakota, combined with Minnesota-Duluth’s 7-3 loss to St. Cloud, added up to a Thursday game with Minnesota State for the Gophers.
Both lower seeds losing left Minnesota the lowest seed left in the tournament, meaning the Gophers have to play the second-lowest seed, the Minnesota State Mavericks, in Tursday’s play-in game.
No team has ever started at the play-in game and won three games in three days to take the WCHA title.
And the winner of this year’s first game gets the pleasure of facing Wisconsin — the top-ranked team in the nation — the next night. The Badgers held serve by annihilating Michigan Tech in two games 4-0 and 9-4. St. Cloud and North Dakota will also square off Friday.
Despite having history against them, the Gophers have no reason not to be confident heading into the Final Five.
“To come up here and sweep a very good C.C. team is an accomplishment,” junior forward Stuart Senden said moments after ending the Tigers sason. “If we continue to play this solid in the Final Five, we’ll be fine.”
Sweeping the Tigers also paid tangible dividends for Minnesota. Having Sunday off meant goaltender Adam Hauser got an extra day of rest. The Gophers were unsure if Hauser could have played all three games if the series gone to three games, but the sophomore netminder should be healthy and rested for Thursday’s tilt.
“I actually felt a lot better tonight than I did Friday. Now we’ll sit around all day tomorrow, and get an extra day of rest,” Hauser said Saturday.
The time off should also help junior forward Aaron Miskovich, who sat out Saturday’s game with a bad knee. The extent of the injury is not known, but Miskovich was set to be examined Monday.
The Mavericks also earned a much deserved day off after sweeping Alaska-Anchorage. Minnesota State prevailed 2-1 just 53 seconds into overtime Friday night, and finished the Seawolves off with a 3-2 win Saturday.
The Gophers and Mavericks split their two-game series this season, with both contests being playd at Mariucci Arena. Minnesota won 3-2 before dropping a 6-5 overtime decision.
Tickets are still available for Thursday’s game at the Target Center for $11.25 through Ticketmaster.
Josh Linehan covers men’s hockey and welcomes comments at [email protected]