There aren't many days on the calendar over the course of a year when the Golden Gophers athletics department has so much on the line. The men's and women's hockey teams are in playoff games and the wrestlers are grinding their way through the NCAA national championships.
GOPHERS MEN'S HOCKEY
The Xcel Energy Center will serve as host of two Big Ten Tournament semifinal games today. First up, at 2 p.m., it'll be second-seed Wisconsin playing sixth-seed Penn State. Then tonight at 7 p.m. the top-ranked Gophers meet fourth-seed Ohio State. The Buckeyes topped third-seed Michigan in yesterday's quarterfinal round.
Minnesota went 3-1 against the Buckeyes during the regular season, with the only loss coming in a shootout.
"We know they've been the top team in the country all year; credit to them," said Ohio State head coach and St. Paul native Steve Rohlik, as reported by the Pioneer Press. "We're just excited we're still playing. It's a great opportunity for our guys to come out and compete. It's going to be a great atmosphere. We're looking forward to it. We're going to have to play our best hockey game tomorrow night."
GOPHERS WOMEN'S HOCKEY
The only thing separating the top-ranked Gophers from a third consecutive National Championship are a couple of wins. At 37-1-1, the dominating Gophers are considered extreme favorites as they head into the NCAA Frozen Four this afternoon against archrival Wisconsin. The puck drops in Hamden, Connecticut at 4 p.m.
The Gophers have beaten the Badgers ten straight times, including the 2012 National Championship game, according to The Daily Gopher. If they win again, they'll play Mercyhurst or Clarkson in the National Championship game at 2 p.m. Sunday.
Minnesota is aiming to become the second team to win three straight women's hockey titles. Minnesota-Duluth won the first three titles in women's NCAA tournament history (2001-2003). In fact, UMD, Minnesota and Wisconsin have combined to win all 13 women's championships, according to GopherSports.com.
For more on the women's team, check out an excellent story about sophomore forward Hannah Brandt, who, according to the Star Tribune, has a propensity for falling on and off the ice.
Six Gophers advanced to the quarterfinals at the NCAA Division I national championships in Oklahoma City, according to GopherSports.com.
Dylan Ness at 157 pounds, David Thorn at 133, Logan Storley at 174, Kevin Steinhaus at 184, Scott Schiller at 197 and Tony Nelson at heavyweight all earned second-round wins on Thursday and will wrestle today in the quarterfinals. Nelson is the two-time defending national champion at heavyweight.
"Friday morning, and then of course if you get to the semifinals … you can get a lot of points there," Gophers coach J Robinson told NCAA.com. "I think our guys know the importance of tomorrow morning's round and have to be ready to compete. A lot will be decided by this time tomorrow night."
Minnesota is tied with Oklahoma State for second place overall with 21 1/2 points. Three-time defending national champ Penn State leads the way with 26.5 points. The wrestling resumes today at 10 a.m.
The softball team is off to its best start in school history. At 22-3, the Gophers are for real, according to the Star Tribune. Minnesota has yet to play a home game but already has wins over national title contenders Arizona State and Louisiana State. The early success has the Gophers ranked 16th and 19th in the national polls.