At the beginning of this season, there wasn’t much expectation surrounding the Gophers men’s hockey team.
Minnesota lost five juniors to the NHL. One incoming freshman left the team for the USHL, and another received an indefinite suspension. Seven new freshmen joined the 25-man team.
With all the new faces, a No. 5 ranking in the national preseason poll seemed generous.
But less than a month later, the Gophers are No. 1 in the nation.
While the leap to No. 1 so early in the season is impressive, Minnesota isn’t putting much stock in the numbers.
Gophers head coach Don Lucia said his team has beaten the teams it was supposed to beat en route to its perfect record so far.
“Four games in, we’re No. 1 because we’re 4-0, and we’re Minnesota,” Lucia said. “Lake [Superior] State is 4-0, and they’re Lake [Superior] State. So they don’t get it. And that’s part of it. It’s so irrelevant this early in the season.”
Lucia said the next several series will be the real test for his team as competition starts to ramp up. He said the No. 1 spot could be up for grabs every week.
Senior forward and captain Nate Condon said this weekend’s series at home against Boston College will be the first real test of the Gophers’ progress.
The Eagles are currently ranked No. 5.
“I think that once you see us out there against a talented team like that,” Condon said, “you’ll be able to see how far some of our freshmen have really come and how far we really need to go this season.”
As far as exceeding early-season expectations, Condon said his team was never concerned about overcoming skeptics.
“I think that our coaches always set high expectations for us,” Condon said. “So I think right now we’re trying to live up to their expectations first.”
After Boston College, three of the next four teams the Gophers will face are nationally ranked.
And sophomore defenseman Brady Skjei said the Gophers aren’t entering this tough stretch overconfident.
“The top 10 teams could all beat each other any night,” he said.