Familiarity won't be an issue when the Gophers (23-12-3) and Bulldogs (20-15-3) meet in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament Friday at 4:30 p.m. inside the Verizon Wireless Center in New Hampshire.
Minnesota Duluth has won three of four against the Gophers this season, including a sweep in mid-November and a big win at Xcel Energy Center in the third-place game of the North Star College Cup in late January.
That loss nearly broke the Gophers' back; at the time it knocked them out of the top 16 of the Pairwise, which serves as an indicator of teams that will make the NCAA Tournament. But Minnesota turned its season around, going 14-3-1 in their last 18 games en route to both the Big Ten regular season and tournament titles.
“We started stringing some wins together and that helped a lot with the confidence in the room,” Gophers senior captain Kyle Rau said Thursday, according to the Duluth News Tribune. “It seemed like when we were losing games, we were waiting to lose it. Now when we get to the third period, we’re confident we are going to win it.”
UMD radio play-by-play man Bruce Ciskie notes that Minnesota and UMD have met 227 times, but this will mark only the second time the former WCHA foes have met in the NCAA Tournament. UMD beat the Gophers 3-1 in the 2004 tourney.
“If you can’t get up for the Gophers, there must be something wrong with you,” Minnesota-Duluth forward Adam Krause said Thursday, the New Hampshire Union Leader reports.