The stage is set and the lights won't get much brighter as the most storied rivalry in college hockey history will face off in the NCAA Frozen Four in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania tonight.
It's the Minnesota Golden Gophers and the North Dakota team without a nickname. The winner advances to the National Championship against the winner of the other semifinal game between Union and Boston College. The Gophers have claimed five National Championships over the years while North Dakota has won seven.
Gophers head coach Don Lucia compared the rivalry to the historic rivalries of the Giants and Eagles in the NFL and North Carolina versus Duke in college basketball.
The rivalry dates back 83 years, but with the new Big Ten Conference separating the former WCHA foes, Minnesota and UND didn't meet in the regular season this year for the first time since the 1940's.
“I think it’s one of the special things within college hockey,” North Dakota head coach Dave Hakstol told the Grand Forks Herald. “No question, it’s exciting for both sides of the fan bases. I think that’s extremely important. We’ve heard over the last 12 months as a lot of people have been afraid they wouldn’t see the rivalry for a few years."
According to the Star Tribune, Minnesota leads the all-time series 145-130-15.
“It doesn’t surprise me to not only hear the results are fairly even, but right down to the statistics [it ’s even],” Hakstol said, according to the Star Tribune. “You’ve got two proud programs that lay it on the line. That’s what’s been done in the past, and I’m assuming that’s what will be done on Thursday night."
Big Ten Goalie and Player of the Year Adam Wilcox, who backstopped the Gophers to the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament, said he knew all along Minnesota would end up playing UND, as reported by the Philadelphia Daily News.
"Even though we didn't play them in the regular season, we knew were going to for sure see them in the NCAAs," Wilcox said. "It's what we want. It's a team we want to play. It's a team that you're going to have to get through every year if you're going to win championships. Whether it's for league championships or the NCAAs, you're going to have to go through North Dakota."
The puck drops at 7:30 p.m. Get ready for what will likely be an amazing game.