This weekend is Sioux/Gophers. I don't think I need to tell anyone that this is the biggest rivalvary in the WCHA and in this writers opinion, one of the top rivalvaries in college hockey (BU/BC, UofMich/everyone come to mind otherwise). The memories of the games between these two teams are always memorable but a few games stand out in my mind. I'll break them down for you:
- Final Five Championship 2004: Fresh off their first WCHA title since 2001, the Sioux team faced a Minnesota team ripe off two National Championships. Both teams had high hopes to go into the NCAA tourney and represent the WCHA in the Frozen Four. This game was back and forth action non-stop. Bochenski put a move on that Briggs that made Woog and Mazako go crazy in the booth. Unfortunately, the Sioux were on the short end of that one, losing 5-4. I sat near some Gopher fans that were actually classy. Shocking, I know
- Frozen Four Semifinal 2005: The Sioux's first trip to the Frozen Four since 2001, and what would be an all WCHA Frozen Four. The Gophers grabbed the lead quickly, but behind a hattrick by Erik Fabian, the Sioux would win 4-2, sending thousands of Gopher fans packing Columbus quickly.
- Final Five Championship 2007: They meet again. In what was the highest attendance ever for the Xcel Energy Center (19,463) the Gophers managed to beat the Sioux in overtime, thanks to a goal by Wheeler that still gets Sioux fans angry every time they see it. To any Gopher lover that says he knew what he was doing....riiiiiight. The Gophers dominated that game for the most part, unfortunately.
- Western Regional 2007: They meet again! I was watching this game at home with my dad, the Gopher lover and Sioux hater. The Gophers jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead but the Sioux matched it quickly. At one point, Kyle Radke got a 5 minute major. The Gophers managed one shot on that entire 5 minute power-play. I told my dad that the Gophers would not win the game because of that and he agreed. Eventually in a 2-2 overtime, Chris Porter took the puck behind the net, wrapped it around, and stuck it through the legs of Long Island Jeff Frazee, sending the Sioux to their third straight Frozen Four.
- Regular Conference game 2008: In a heated battle at the Mooch, Finley pulled Wheeler out of the handshake line and attempted to fight him. This entire series was a hard fought battle and there was definitely no love lost between these two teams.
As you can see, each game means something and each team plays like it's a championship every time they get together. I am really looking forward to the battles this weekend. That being said, the Sioux need a few things to win:
- Consistency in net. Eidsness hasn't been spectacular as of late, and a game like this will just be added pressure. The Sioux need to help him out defensively as much as possible.
- Sustained offense. Need to capitalize on rebounds and keep the puck in the offensive zone. The Gophers are young on defense and can be worn down.
- Keep the playmakers in check. Stoa and Schroeder are two guys that are amazing talent. The Sioux must contain them. Hit them hard, hit them often, keep them off balance.
My honest prediction hurts. A lot to say. But I'm calling a Gopher sweep in this one.
And on a somber note, Coach Lucia will not be making the trip as he is out with an undisclosed illness. I wish him a speedy recovery and wish him well.