Gopher men’s hockey preparing for return to Frozen Four

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After a brief respite following their Regional Final win over the weekend, Gopher men’s hockey is diving into their preparation for next weekend’s Frozen Four.

The Gophers won their way back to the Frozen Four with a Regional Final win over St. Cloud State last weekend in Fargo. They’ll play Boston University in the National Semifinal next week – Thursday, April 6th at Amalie Arena in Tampa.

Click the video boxes at the top of this page to watch Wednesday press conferences with Gopher players Brock Faber and Ryan Johnson, as well as head coach Bob Motzko

This is the second straight season the Gophers have won their way to college hockey’s final four. They lost in the National Semifinal to Minnesota State last season in Boston.

Several Gopher players with options to turn pro after last season – Brok Faber, Matthew Knies, Ryan Johnson among them – chose to return with another Frozen Four trip in mind.

“You come back for, obviously, a lot more than just winning a national championship, but that’s a big reason for it,” Faber said. “It’s hard not to – since day one – just look forward to this but obviously, there’s so much work that has to go in to get here.

“Credit to the guys in the locker room and the coaching staff because it is a special group and, you know, it’s it’s hard to look forward when you just enjoy every day here.”

Faber admits last year’s loss in the Semifinal has provided plenty of motivation.

“It was an unfortunate ending last year. It’s something we learn from. You go to bed thinking about something you’re constantly looking forward to. It’s that time of year and we’re back and we’re excited to hopefully play a lot better this time around.”

A big difference this season is the start time for the Gophers semifinal game.

Last year – overtime in the first NCAA semifinal delayed the start of the Gophers / Mankato game well into the night. This year, the Gophers drew a 4pm Central Time start for the semifinal matchup against Boston University.

“Did you hear that scream out of Minnetonka when that came out of the screen?” Motzko laughed.

“I love it! 8:30 at night? If I had my pick I would never play at 8:30 at night, but it is what it is. We gotta go at five o’clock – we got to be ready to go. Same for Boston College. And then the other game’s just hoping doesn’t go into overtime.

“We live in a world where TV dictates it and it’s not ideal. But I like our time.”

Faber agrees.

“I kept seeing on Twitter that people were kinda upset with us getting in the early game, which I understand,” Faber said. “But as a player, you love that. The earlier the better.

“Last year we had to wait around ’til like nine or something crazy. So yeah, we love it. But at the end of the day, whatever time we’re playing we’re gonna be ready.”

Should they get by Boston on Thursday, a Championship date awaits Saturday against the winner between Michigan and Quinnipiac in the other semifinal.

It would give the 2022-23 edition of Gopher Hockey a shot at immortality.

“We look around and see the banners and stuff, there’s obviously a lot of success and history,” senior defenseman Ryan Johnson said. “There’s five national championships. It’s a lot, but I think you see the last one was like 20 years ago so it’s like, ‘Okay, what’s going on? We know we have the talent like every year to win it’. But I think that just shows the competitiveness.”

Johnson is one of a few Gophers who are carrying on a family legacy with the program. His father Craig played for the Gophers from 1990-1993.

“It’s cool. We’ve talked about the history, knowing that a lot of us had relatives that went through the program and we have that history too.

“Being able to be from Minnesota and part of Minnesota and play hockey? It’s really cool. It’s an honor.”

Faber also addressed the notion that Gopher teams carry history with them anytime a national championship is within reach.

“That’s something that we really, really talk about a lot. This program means a lot more than just you and the name on the back of the jersey – like Herb Brooks obviously said,” Faber said. “A lot of people that came through here and have sacrificed so much allow us to be at this stage in our lives.

“Being proud to wear that ‘M’ is something we all feel and it’s an honor. That’s kind of what “Pride on Ice” means.

“It’s worth a lot to a lot of people, so it means it means a lot to be in this spot.”