It's UMD weekend everyone. Does that feel odd to you? Well, that might have something to do with the fact that we haven't seen the Gophers face off against the Bulldogs since 2011. You read that right. The last time these two teams played was October 15th, 2011. To give you a sense of how long ago that was, Illinois had just suffered their first football loss of the season to Ohio State, were still ranked #16, and Ron Zook was still their coach. Yup.
The Daily Gopher: You say on your blog that you aren't a UMD alum and that you don't live in Duluth. But you write a UMD hockey blog. I'm going to need some help with that one...what's the story?
Donna Carpenter: I am a 4th-generation tUMD fan. My father is from Duluth, my parents and uncles are tUMD alumni, my grandfather was on faculty at tUMD. There is now a 5th generation as well. We're like a fan dynasty, like the Kennedys of college hockey fandom. And just as good-looking as the Kennedys, too.
TDG: Now that you've cleared that up...as a UMD fan of confusing origins tell me what you think of the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers.
DC: It's not confusing at all to be a tUMD fan, no matter where in the world one is. It's simply the intelligent choice. I would rather have been one of the women in "Two Girls, One Cup" than be a UMTC fan.
TDG: What were your expectations for the Bulldogs coming into the season? What are you hoping to see out of UMD the rest of the way?
DC: Well, I didn't expect this garbage. I expected tUMD to get home ice, at the very least, and to like, make efforts and try and take pride in their performance. I didn't expect a TJ Caig-level of regression from a few players. I am hoping tUMD has turned a corner and can make the Final Five, since we're on the Eve of College Hockey Destruction and won't have the Final Five anymore.
TDG: When the puck drops on Friday night it will have been 496 days since the Gophers and Bulldogs faced off. First, that's just...wrong. Second, it means I know less about UMD than usual (not surprising as I'm admittedly not the great hockey mind of the TDG staffers). Can you tell me which of the fine fellows wearing the wrong mascot on their maroon and gold I should be watching out for?
DC: I feel sort of insulted I didn't get interviewed by the great hockey mind of the TDG staffers. Is the great hockey mind in a coma? The great hockey mind could tell you more about your hockey team, I guess, but I can tell you there aren't any fine fellows wearing the wrong mascot on their maroon and gold. There are many fine fellows wearing the right mascot, and of those fine fellows, you'll want to keep close watch on senior Mike Seidel, who can take a nothing play and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile; 2016 Hobey Baker Award Winner Austin Farley, who will remind you of Jack Connolly; Tony Cameranesi, brother of Metro Girls Hockey POTY Dani Cameranesi (a future rodent, sadly, but come on Dani, there's still time to decommit!); and another person who may or may not play and shall remain nameless, since I am sure Lucia uses my blog and Twitter as a scouting resource.
TDG: Which team in the WCHA do you hate most and why?
DC: It's very situational. I tend to really dislike UMTC because I follow too many UMTC fans/media folks on Twitter and get absolutely bombarded by the slobbering and chest-thumping and hyperbole. But then the No-Name fans will start up with their bragging and their endless, meaningless statistics (the No-Names are 12-7-2 when at least one person sitting in the lower bowl picks their nose while on the Jumbotron!, etc) or their ignorant rants about how they honor Native Americans by making puns out of the word Sioux. Plus they have Tim Tebow, Jr. Wisconsin is just a terrible state with terrible people who have coitus with dead deer. And St. Cloud helped re-elect Michelle Bachmann. And Dean Blais is annoying and stupid and looks like David Letterman. And Buttmidji doesn't even belong in this league, thank goodness we'll be rid of them in a few months... even though tUMD will end up taking pity on them and scheduling them so we can play for that dumb trophy no one even cares about.
It's probably more concise to say that I only like tUMD and Michigan Tech.
TDG: Speaking of the WCHA, how do you feel about the demise of the league as it exists today? How do you feel about the move to the NCHC? What will you miss the least about the current WCHA?
DC: I don't like the 12-team WCHA. 10 teams in a conference seems about right, as 12 leads to scenarios like 496-day gaps between meetings of teams. I will miss being part of the premier league in college hockey, but let's face it, it's watered down a tad. I am apprehensive about the move to the NCHC, as it seems like we're simply going from a league whose brass are on the Gopher payroll to a league whose brass are on the UND payroll. It is really a shame that Notre Dame didn't listen to Mario Lucia and go to the NCHC, because the power in the league would be distributed a little more evenly.
I will miss the Final Five more than anything. It already kind of sucks with its new format, but the Final Five has been an integral part of my life since I was a child getting out of school to go down to the Civic Center. The Final Five is almost like a family reunion to me. I doubt that any Big Mistake, NCHC, or WCHA Lite tournament will ever recapture the magic of the Final Five.
TDG: I'm glad that Minnesota has kept a yearly series with the other in-state schools. As time passes, what do you think the ideal format for these series should be?
DC: I don't like the tournament. I like keeping the non-conference schedule as open as possible to see a variety of teams. tUMD, unlike the southern branch of the University of Minnesota system, travels for non-conference games. Team RWD usually has representatives at the East Coast games. I don't think tUMD needs to play UMTC every year, maybe every other year or three out of four years or something. We don't need the attendance bailout that certain other schools need. Rumor has it we're going to end up with the dreaded "home and home," which is the second most horrific scenario possible (the most horrific would be playing an unbalanced schedule, like a 2 or 3 for 1 deal).
TDG: What do you think the Bulldogs need to do in order to beat the Gophers?
DC: Play through adversity. At the first sign of trouble, the team has been melting down. UMTC is beatable, even indoors on smooth, perfectly formed ice, contrary to what you may have heard over the past few days. tUMD has a lot of talent, but most of the talented players are young. Part of tUMD's success over the past few seasons has been because our young talent was gradually integrated into the team. Travis Oleksuk played only 18 games his freshman year and signed an NHL contract after his senior season. He didn't play only 18 games because he sucked, he played only 18 games because the team had considerable depth. The young talent will surprise you this weekend, and I'm sure we'll get a few "Well, the Gophers didn't want this guy" nonsense from guys like UMTC/Gopher Puck Live wonk Hammy and his ilk, while inside they are seething with jealousy. While the team still needs time to develop, the raw talent needed to beat the Gophers is there. They just need to communicate and bust their butts. You should feel lucky you're getting out of our conference now, because in two years, look out.
TDG: I've had St. Cloud fans tell me that UMD is the real Jan Brady University because UMD and the U are both part of the same system (i.e. same last name). What would you say to that?
DC: I know Miami of Ohio is going to the NCHC, but that's not the Miami commonly called "The U." But, St. Cloud fans are not exactly arguing from a position of strength, are they?
TDG: Predictions for Friday and Saturday?
DC: You should probably fold your program if you get anything less than a sweep.
Thanks to Donna for the best executed "Miami is The U" comeback I've seen. As always, check back tomorrow night for the "Highlander (There can be only one University of Minnesota)" OPEN THREAD.