In terms of actual players on the court, yes, this was the same undefeated Minnesota team that beat then-No. 8 North Carolina on Nov. 19 and West Virginia, a 2010 Final Four team, two days later to win the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. And they were playing the same Virginia that lost by 43 to then-No. 13 Washington a week ago and Wichita State the next night.
In mid-September, Penn State announced the addition of Division I menâÄôs and womenâÄôs ice hockey to its athletic slate. Thanks to an unprecedented $88 million private donation from Terry and Kim Pegula, the university will build a multi-purpose arena and the Nittany Lions will begin NCAA play in 2012. Naturally, the upgrade from club hockey will alter the athletics pool in State College, Pa., but the effects of Penn StateâÄôs move may ripple throughout college hockey. And no weekend on the GophersâÄô schedule exemplifies that more than this one.
It was dÃ©jÃ vu in the worst possible way. The Gophers had advanced to their second Sweet Sixteen in three years. Again they faced a Big East opponent, again snowbanks surrounded a frozen field, and yet again a single late goal eliminated Minnesota from the NCAA womenâÄôs soccer tournament in heartbreaking fashion. Georgetown scored on a chaotic corner kick with 44 seconds remaining in regulation to beat the Gophers 1-0 Saturday at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium.
Playing away from Mariucci Arena again remedied the Minnesota menâÄôs hockey team, which improved its road record to 4-0-0 with a two-game sweep of Michigan Tech, 6-4 and 4-1. Beat up and shorthanded two weeks ago against Wisconsin, the Gophers (7-4-1 overall, 5-4-1 WCHA) regained their health in time to travel to the Upper Peninsula, but for the most part it was familiar, or at least always-healthy, names filling the score sheet.
Don Lucia was due for some good news. For weeks, a steady stream of players suffered illness after injury after illness, to the point that the mere sight of team trainer Jeff Winslow terrified the GophersâÄô head coach. Winslow âÄúis the Grim Reaper,âÄù Lucia said Monday on his weekly radio show, a phrase he used again Wednesday when he spoke with the media. âÄúEvery time he comes in, itâÄôs more bad news.âÄù It started in practice with a puck that cracked a bone in junior Nick LarsonâÄôs right foot. That was Oct. 18, two days after Minnesota was swept by Nebraska Omaha.
In 2008, a dozen wide-eyed freshmen and sophomores were part of the first team in Minnesota soccer history to advance to the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA tournament.
While a battered Minnesota team took a week off, Western Collegiate Hockey Association marched on with five conference series that suggested college hockeyâÄôs most competitive league is becoming increasingly stratified into a quartet of elite teams, a couple bottom-dwellers and a muddled middle.
The 8,000 square yards of green might have been a mirage. With every other blade of grass in the metro area hidden beneath 10 inches of the seasonâÄôs first snowfall, here were a few million that were perfectly manicured, having been meticulously uncovered by a grounds crew that worked into the wee hours of Sunday morning to make the field playable at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium.
Katie Bethke picked a good time to nearly double her season goal total. The senior scored the equalizer and game-winner in the second half and the Minnesota womenâÄôs soccer team advanced out of the first round of the NCAA tournament with a 4-2 win over Creighton. Facing a 2-1 halftime deficit despite a 16-5 shot advantage and plagued by inconveniently placed goalposts, the Gophers needed a quick spark after the break.
The Minnesota womenâÄôs soccer team gathered on an unseasonably warm Wednesday for its second-to-last practice before the first round of the NCAA tournament. Friday night should feel more like November. Forecasts call for a high of 44 degrees, and it will likely be significantly cooler for a 6 p.m. kickoff. But no matter, by all indications, this Gophers team has ice in its veins.
Minnesota's reigning Mr. Football and Gophers recruit ...READ MORE
It's been a busy couple of days for the Gophers hockey ...READ MORE
All-WCHA teams were announced today, with junior goaltender ...READ MORE