In getting prepared for this weekend' Sioux/Gophers showdown at Mariccui, I -- like most fans -- read the preview articles and blog entries on the Star Tribune and Pioneer Press' websites. Like many of the past write-ups of this nature between the two teams, there were quotes from Gopher players about the rivalry.
"These teams hate each other, a lot," Jacob Cepis said. "It is going to be brutal out there. It is going to be a war. Everybody knows that. That is what I hear from the guys."
"It's really exciting to play [the Sioux]," Mike Hoeffel said, "and we are really going to be pumped up."
"We understand how the game's going to be," Don Lucia said about the North Dakota series. "It's going to be competitive. ... We're the type of team where we're not going to rely on one or two guys.
"It was unbelievable," Nick Leddy said of the season-opening series in Grand Forks vs. the Sioux. "It was crazy. It was a crazy atmosphere. It is super loud even from the get go when they did the [video] before they [announced] the starting lineups.
"They had that big screen showing their guys hitting our guys in the past," Leddy said. "I couldn’t really see, but I knew what was going on. [Fans] were going crazy. They did it to get the crowd into it and they definitely did."
"Hopefully we can match their intensity," Cade Fairchild said.
And before the season, Gophers captains Ryan Flynn and Tony Luica both talked about this Gopher team needing to be tougher to play against, and head coach Don Lucia echoed those thoughts.
So, I ask my favorite team, heading into this weekend: please back up your words.
You always hear the Gophers talk about how they hate the Sioux, etc. But yet when it comes to the games, particularity over the last few seasons, the Sioux have owned the Gophers physically and on the scoreboard, going 8-3-1 in their last 12 matchups against the Gophers. Last year in Grand Forks, Minnesota was swept by a combined score of 12-3, and fans may remember Tony Lucia backing down from a fight with UND's Zach Jones. Now, I know there's no fighting in college hockey, etc., and many Gopher fans think the Sioux are nothing but goons, etc.
But I'll tell you this: you won't see UND getting smashed by scores such as 6-0 in an opponents' barn and showing no grit in the process.
It's been easy for the Gophers to say how much they dislike the Sioux, but when it comes right down to it, talk is cheap. This weekend gives Minnesota a great chance, on home ice, to back up their words and take it to the Sioux on the scoreboard most importantly, but to also not be intimidated.
Can they do it? We'll know soon...