The Gophers need a serious bounce back.
Wisconsin swept Minnesota last weekend — the first time the Gophers have been swept in about two years — and also did away with Minnesota’s 14-game winning streak.
The losses cost the Gophers their No. 1 ranking and narrowed their lead in the Big Ten Conference. The Badgers are now just four points behind Minnesota for first place.
“We’re trying to learn from it and trying to get over it as fast as we can,” said sophomore defenseman Brady Skjei. “It’s kind of in the past now.”
The Gophers will have to recover quickly and look to the immediate future because they don’t have the luxury of any easy wins this weekend.
Instead, Minnesota will face No. 10 Michigan, a team that’s just six points away in the conference standings. That’s just one sweep away from tying in points.
Gophers senior defenseman Justin Holl said he prefers it that way.
“It’s going to be a tough weekend, and I think we’d rather have it that way as opposed to playing a softer team,” Holl said. “We test our team right away.”
Dating back to the 1920s, Michigan is one of the oldest hockey programs in the nation. The Wolverines have won nine national championships and 24 conference titles. Head coach Red Berenson is in his 30th year at the helm.
The teams last met in November 2010, a 3-1 win for the Gophers.
Of all the possible Big Ten adversaries, this is the matchup that had the most potential from the beginning.
“I think this is probably the next rivalry we’ll ramp up in the Big Ten,” head coach Don Lucia said.
While the games will be a battle between two historic programs, Holl said he believes the Gophers have fate on their side.
“We’re sitting pretty well right now. We’re in first place in the Big Ten,” he said. “We control our own destiny.”
Kismet aside, this is the point in the season when losses can either make or break a team — in records and confidence.
“Coach talked to us after the game, and he said this isn’t necessarily the worst thing ever, if we get better from it,” Holl said. “It could be a good wake-up call.”