When the Gophers hit the ice in the semifinals of the Frozen Four from Philadelphia they will do so against a familiar opponent in former WCHA foe North Dakota.
The Gophers make their 21st appearance at the Frozen Four and are 54-35 all-time in the tournament. They have won five national titles including two under current coach Don Lucia (2002, 2003), but have the hockey power has been shut out in recent years.
"It's obviously exciting. I'm obviously proud of our team and what they have been able to accomplish this year," Lucia said in a media session leading up to Thursday's game. "It's a tremendous Frozen Four field, probably one of those years when any of the four teams could win it."
Led by the nation's top goaltender Adam Wilcox and solid production from a group of youngsters, the Gophers hope this trip nets another championship. Wilcox, a sophomore won his 50th game as a Gopher which tied him for eighth all-time in the career wins category. His .934 save percentage is on pace to set a new record.
Hockey experts didn't expect North Dakota to make the Frozen Four, but the program with seven NCAA championships have been up to the challenge and finds themselves locked in with a familiar opponent.
"They are going to see one of the great college rivalries," head coach Dave Hakstol said about playing Minnesota. "The rivalry between Minnesota and North Dakota is a good one, it's a healthy one. There's a little bit of nastiness to it, there's a lot of respect to it between the two programs. To be able to play on a large stage is great for the rivalry and college hockey."
The Gophers hold a 145-130-15 advantage in the series history. The winner will advance to the championship game on Saturday night.