The University of Minnesota Golden Gopher hockey team is quite probably the premier outfit in all of college hockey. Their rich history and tradition are shared by few other teams. Countless alumni have achieved fame and even glory in their post-Gopher hockey lives. They've probably won double the number of WCHA championships to the number of years that UAA has been in the league. They are dynasty-like. Other programs in the NCAA might be offended and feel the need to defend their perceived status in any discussion of this sort. It's understandable, they're jealous.
Outside of a general sense of pride the players gain from playing for the heralded Golden Gopher organization ... all that tradition and status jazz will have little to no effect on the results of this weekend's Seawolves games with the Gophers. This weekend's games will be decided by two teams that really both need to sweep the other. They need a sweep. UAA needs a sweep. It's starting to be "that" time. The standings are pretty tight through the middle of the WCHA.
And right now is when any hopes for home ice for either team would certainly be buoyed by getting 4 points. It's not quite the whole shebang just yet. A stumble here isn't necessarily dooming, just pretty damaging by comparison. UAA has just 10 more WCHA games after this series with 20 points on the line. Minnesota has 12 more and 24 more possible points. Home ice will probably require at minimum 28 points.
I know I didn't come into this season harboring much of a hope that the Seawolves could make a run at a home ice bid. A sweep this weekend makes that much more of a possibility. 4 points could move the Seawolves out of 9th place with 14 points into (depending of course on other results) 6th place with 18 points. 6th place hosts a home playoff.
Obviously there's lots of battles to be fought before the end of the season and we all see exactly who nabs that 6 spot. Success this weekend would be a positive start for the Seawolves. And success this weekend is wholly predicated on success Friday night.
So the Seawolves players though will be focused on Friday night without regard to how it impacts the race for 6th. Winning the game matters. And there isn't a game these guys would be suiting up for where they didn't honestly believe in their ability to get a win. That's the primary characteristic I've picked up form this years Seawolves. They know in their gut they can win any game against anyone on any given night. Taking it one game at a time has often been the refrain. The Seawolves team should be confident.
They've been doing everything well. They're 6-7-1 in their last 14 games but could very very easily have gone 10-3-1 through that stretch. 5 of the 7 losses have been by one goal (not counting empty netters) and in ALL of those 5 losses the Seawolves had multiple chances to win. Coach Shyiak talked about getting over the hump and 5 of 6 of those wins have come by one goal, in battles; and are good examples of getting over the hump.
Good teams find a way to win. I can assure everyone that two good teams will be on the ice at The John this Friday and Saturday night. Which good team will find a way to win? I think it'll be the Seawolves.