Presser Notebook: North Dakota Pregame

MINNEAPOLIS - With Minnesota's biggest rival, the University of North Dakota, coming to town this weekend, players and coaches alike were understandably enthusiastic during Wednesday's press conference. Don Lucia, Zach Budish, and Nate Condon spoke with the media about the Gophers' upcoming series.

Injuries
The Gophers have not been hampered by many injuries this season but have been without one of their stars, Erik Haula, for the past three games with an undisclosed hand injury. Haula has practiced this week but is still questionable for the weekend series.

"[Haula] practiced yesterday, we'll let him practice this week and get a gauge day-by-day of where he's at," said Don Lucia. "I know what he wants to do, but we're going to do what's in his best interest. He looked better yesterday than I anticipated. He'll get some contact today and we'll see where he's at."

Apart from Haula's injury, the Gophers should be healthy for the weekend series despite a cold bug that has been going around the team.

"We've got some colds going through our team right now, so we've had to monitor and gauge practice because of that," Lucia said. "We just want to keep our guys as fresh as we can for Friday and Saturday."

Rivalry Week
Lucia expressed the importance of playing against North Dakota, not just for the rivalry, but for position in the conference standings.

"I think when you step on the ice and there's a buzz in the crowd I think that gets the players a little more excited than maybe a normal game," he said. "It's important regarding standings. We're both tied a point out of first place. It's a critical weekend as far as WCHA standings are concerned."

Captain Zach Budish noted that he is looking forward to adding another chapter in the storied history between the two teams.

"I think there's always a little more extra emotion when you're playing North Dakota, just because of the rivalry," he said. "I mean, most of the guys on our team grew up watching the Gophers and North Dakota playing every year. It's been a lot of back and forth, and it's been pretty even."

Looking Back
The Gophers stayed atop the college hockey landscape with a sweep of Alaska Anchorage last weekend despite a shaky Friday night showing. Junior forward Nate Condon spoke about the sweep over the Seawolves.

"It was pretty wild for us last weekend and luckily we pulled that one out on Friday and carried that into Saturday," he said. "I could do without doing that on Friday from here on out, but if those Saturdays keep coming I'm not complaining."

Budish noted that Friday's hard-fought win was something the Gophers needed. "We didn't necessarily play our best hockey in the first period on Friday night, but we found a way to win, which I think is the sign of a good team," he said. "That was the message after the game. We didn't play the way we wanted to for a full sixty minutes, but we found a way to grind out a win."

Looking Forward
Heading into a series against North Dakota, the focus will be on shutting down UND's high-powered top line of Danny Kristo (13 G, 17 A) and Corbin Knight (10 G, 21 A).

"They're both outstanding players," said Lucia of the duo. "To their credit, they came back for their senior year, and they're both having really good senior years. If we're going to have success this weekend, we're going to have to minimize what they do."

Condon noted that the Gophers have been successful in recent games against teams like Boston College and Notre Dame who also have top units that can put the puck away.

"You've got to play good defensively," he said. "We shut down a couple of big guys in [T.J.] Tynan and Anders Lee a couple of days ago, and a bunch of guys on B.C. You know, I hope our D like blocking shots this weekend."


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