Gophers Frozen Four Press Conference

Read comments from Gophers coach Don Lucia, Gino Guyer and Judd Stevens after their 4-2 loss to North Dakota in the semifinal game of the Frozen Four.

MODERATOR: First we'd like to ask Don to make an opening comment on the game, then we'll take the questions for the players.

COACH LUCIA: First I'd like to congratulate North Dakota. I thought they played a very good game tonight. We -- we had some chances -- they came out, really dictated the first period, and we got better as the game went on, but we couldn't get that goal to -- until late to get us going and give our guys a lot of credit. We got down 4-0 to keep going and battling back and make a game of it late, but I also believe right now that -- that the team -- two teams that are playing the best are gonna play on Saturday and both deserve to be there and it should be a heck of a game. And, you know, when the year began with this group, I don't think we had a lot of believers that we'd be in the Frozen Four, so I'm really happy for our players, we had a lot of young guys out there in a difficult environment, but our seniors, to get to go to three Frozen Fours in their four-year career is a real tremendous statement for what they were able to do for University of Minnesota hockey program, and I couldn't be more proud of our team and what they did this year.

MODERATOR: Questions for the players?

REPORTER: For either of the players, could you say that it was a shock or anything when their fourth line comes out and scores a couple goals? They've done that in the past but is that something that kind of gets you, you know, set back on your heels a little bit?


STEVENS: Yeah, I think a little bit. They've got some good depth. They've got, you know, some top-end guys that can play and they've got some guys that can score and not make plays, obviously as we saw tonight, and I give a lot of credit to them, they came out and played hard that first period and had us pinned back, and we got better, but they kept fighting. Then, you know, Parise really shut the door and we weren't able to get over the hump, and I'm proud of the fact that we battled back. We were down and kept fighting and playing and they played well, so I tip my hat to them.

REPORTER: Gino, they got -- at the start, they -- they had questionable goaltending and forwards didn't seem to score, but they always had those big defensemen who are a little mean as well. They're really tough defensemen, too, but these guys -- now that the rest of their team has come together, are they really hard to play against as far as getting to the net goes?

GUYER: Definitely. They're big defensemen. They block a lot of shots, they play in your face, they don't give up any rebounds in front of the net. They either tie you up or clear them out, making sure their goalie doesn't have to make a second save. Their forwards are playing really well right now, too. They're jumping in on the forecheck and getting up on the D really quick and they're playing tough, also, and it's just kind of an all-around tough mentality for their team and they came out really hard in the first and, you know, they wouldn't back down to us and they were sticking it to us a little bit.

MODERATOR: Further questions for the players? Anything, gang? Okay. Guys, thank you very much. Congratulations on a great year. We'll take your questions for Coach Lucia.

REPORTER: Were you really surprised the way North Dakota came out because they've shown trending of this, where they come out pretty fast and are able to --

COACH LUCIA: No, I wasn't surprised at all. It's something that we talked about. We knew we weren't gonna win the physical battle, but we kept talking for two weeks, you've got to get back up and keep coming. And that's the strength of their team, and I think what's changed in the last six, seven weeks is that, you know, they've always played snarly, but they've got a lot of seniors in their lineup, and I think John asked the question or somebody asked a question about Fabian getting the first couple goals, but now they're getting production throughout their lineup, and early on they weren't scoring, and I think that's made a big difference for their team. Obviously Parise made some good saves as well, but I watched them play the two -- a couple games at -- in our Final Five, watched them play last weekend, they were playing really well, and -- and that's why I wasn't surprised how they came out and played. I was -- I thought maybe it caught a couple of our guys -- a bunch of younger guys, that we had to get in there and go nose to nose a little bit more, and I thought we did that when the second period started. When it was 1-0 after the first, we kind of hung in, there, but we couldn't get that 1 to 1 goal, but we had some chances there in the second period to tie that one and then they go up 2-0 and I think that was a big goal.

REPORTER: Don, you've talked a lot this year about having a little-- a very small margin of error and there were a couple mistakes in the first period kind of put you guys behind. Was that kind of the key to the game?

COACH LUCIA: We knew that. We felt going in, boy we really need Ryan or Danny to score tonight and they didn't get a goal tonight and part of that's because of, you know, it's hard the way North Dakota plays and their big strong defensemen muscle you all over the rink, but we felt -- we wanted to try to get that first goal. That first goal is so important this time of the year. And when North Dakota can play with a lead, they're that much better of a team, because they're going to box you out and make life miserable for you and that's what they're doing right now and they're playing -- the way they're playing, they're playing extremely well right now, and Dave talked about it at the end, they're playing very confident. It should be a heck of a game on Saturday night.

REPORTER: Donny, you can't put your finger on it or make it happen but your team played so well at the start and everything fit together and you were playing and scoring all the time and they weren't and now you've been having to scratch for goals. It's almost a reversal of roles.

COACH LUCIA: I think part of it -- we have a lot of young guys with three freshmen D playing tonight and a lot of young guys in critical roles and they do, too, with Spirko and Zajac, but I think it's that McMahon's playing well and Canady playing better now, and Prpich, and some of these older juniors and seniors and their D, that's -- I think it's -- it makes it difficult to play against them right now because of those older guys that are really doing their -- their job and playing within their roles and -- and are very effective at it and that's what a team's all about, you've got to have some of those skill guys but you've got to have those soldiers right now and I think that's North Dakota, their soldiers are playing extremely well for them.

MODERATOR: Further questions for Don? Anything else? Okay, Bruce?

REPORTER: Don, obviously you've got to feel like this was a really successful season. When you started, even though you were ranked number one for a long time, I don't think a lot of people thought this was one of the best teams in the country on paper. Do you feel pretty good about the way it turned out?

COACH LUCIA: Well, you know what, I do, from the standpoint that, boy, you never want to walk away from the opportunity to play in the Frozen Four and say, geez, guys feel bad because we didn't get to the championship game. They're crushed, the seniors. It's hard to go in the locker room the last game of the season, I don't care if it's at the Frozen Four, the National Championship game, or the first round of the WCHA playoffs, it's all the same. It's very difficult for the seniors. But I think that we got as much out of this group as we could because at this point of the year, I'm also -- the best teams usually win this time of the year and I think North Dakota was the best team today and they deserve to march on and that's what this time of the year's all about. It's not only, you know, Denver proved it a year ago, you don't have to be the best team all year but you have to be the best team at the right time of the year, and North Dakota's playing extremely well, and I think that everybody was a bit surprised that first round of the playoffs when they dismantled Duluth as easily as they did in back-to-back games and everybody thought, boy, that's going to be a dynamite series and they kept kind of marching right on.

REPORTER: Can you just talk about Kellen tonight. Did you get what you hoped out of him?

COACH LUCIA: Well, I think this time of year that, you know, he made some good saves and really held us in after the first period, you know, but let's -- this time of the year, I mean, you've got to be 93 or so if you're gonna advance because you know going in that, boy, you're going to see 25, 30 shots against and it's awfully difficult to win this time of year if you let in more than two goals and, you know, they made some place, we made some mistakes, but that's what the game's all about is one team makes place and another team makes mistakes and that's how goals are scored. Like I said, some of the young guys, I think it was a great learning experience to be here and I hope that's going to be a carrot for them when they go back to work getting ready for next season.

MODERATOR: We'll take one more if you have it. Anything else?

REPORTER: You said yesterday if you're going to go down, you wanted to go down swinging. You managed to do that but maybe a little too late --

COACH LUCIA: Yeah, I don't know if it was nerves, or what. We had some young guys that hadn't been in that situation before that played a little tentative and nervous in the first period. That's why we fell back. That and once we got to the first goal (inaudible), and I thought the second period of the game evened out, and chance for chance, we probably had as many tonight, but to their credit, they -- they finished off their chances and we didn't. And that's why they're marching on. But especially you get down 4-0, how's a team going to respond? And they responded in a real positive manner, like I expected them to, and went right down to the end to pull the goalie situation and Parise made a couple real good saves when it was 4-2, when we pulled it, it would have been interesting if we could have made it 4-3, but I'm really proud of this group, because like I said, we don't have any all-league players or all-Americans on this group, and they battled and, you know, we had our fair share of injuries the second half of the year, and Alex played hurt tonight, but he gave it -- he gave it everything he had. I think all of our guys did that. That's why I'm -- you're always sad to lose this time of year, but I'm not disappointed. And I think there's a difference.

MODERATOR: Don, thank you very much.

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