Presser Highlights: Coach Don Lucia

MINNEAPOLIS — Gopher hockey head coach Don Lucia fielded questions from the Twin Cities media at the team's annual media day.

Coach Don Lucia's opening statement...
"Taylor Matson has done a wonderful job as our captain this year. I wouldn't have expected anything less because in all the years that I've coached, I don't know if I've ever had a more hard-working player than Taylor. He's relentless in everything he does, whether it's in the classroom or off the ice or on the ice so he's really set a standard. He set the standard last spring. He set the standard this summer.

"The guys had a great summer, including the incoming freshmen that were here going to summer school and working out with Cal [Dietz]. They came back in September, for the first time everybody was able to do the run and make the run. So everybody passed the test on the first time which shows the amount of effort they did put in over the course of the summer.

"We have had the opportunity, right from the get go, to get in groups of four with our players the first week of school. And then starting the fifteenth we had three days of 40 minutes with them and then the last two weeks we have broken up our practices in four 30-minute segments so we could be on the ice with them four times a week. That required them to get up on Saturday mornings—make sure they're here and working and they really have been great. They've been a fun group to be around. They seem to be a pretty motivated group. Now it's time to get ready."

Lucia on what teams scare him in the WCHA…
"You've got the defending National Champs—they did take some hits with some players they lost. I would say Denver would be the one team—based on the core players that were young last year as freshmen and sophomores—you'd probably have to give them the nod to the No. 1 team. I think that CC had a great finish to the end of the year, certainly with Jaden Schwartz—he's as good as any player in the league.

"I think it's like most years. There's so much depth in the league there's not much difference between a number of teams. Getting off to good cohesiveness, being a good team, injuries. All that can play such a part in two or three spots. So we're going to do every we can to put our self in the best position we can possibly be in at the end of the year."

Lucia on who he expects to carry the scoring load this season…
"When I look at our team right now—our top two centers return from last year that were both freshman in [Nick] Bjugstad and [Erik] Haula. I think Zach Budish was a guy we missed last year, that was injured early in the season, had gotten off to a pretty good start. I think that he's transitioned well from his injury. I think he looks very good in what he's done.

"Obviously Jake Hansen is a guy who finished the year very strong at the end. Nate Condon and Taylor Matson are both guys that had good years last year—Nate as a freshman. And certainly Taylor, really I thought came on from an offensive standpoint the second half of the year. And then also he got hurt that last weekend of the year and we didn't have him for the playoffs.

"I don't know if we have one guy that is going to get 25 or 30 goals but I see a lot of players being in that 10-15 goal range. I do think that some of our freshmen that have come in are going to help us offensively and we're going to probably put them in some pretty important roles, at least at the beginning of the season."

Video courtesy of U of M athletic communications.

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