Even if they know what is coming, Gophers excited to renew their generations-old rivalry with North Dakota
In advance of their border battle with North Dakota, Minnesota Gophers coach Bob Motzko said you do not need to intensely study video on the Fighting Hawks' tendencies, as the have played the same hard, effective game for years.
MINNEAPOLIS — There is no videotape available from the two games Minnesota and North Dakota played in Minneapolis on Jan. 23-24, 1948 — a split between the Gophers and an upstart program then called the Fighting Sioux. But if current Gophers coach Bob Motzko was able to watch those games, he has a good idea of what he would see.
“Like (assistant coach Steve Miller) says, ‘I haven’t had to watch film on North Dakota in years. I start watching and I can stop in five minutes.’ It’s the same North Dakota team,” Motzko said this week when previewing a renewal one of the oldest rivalries in college hockey. “Their bread and butter is how hard they play, how hard they forecheck, and it’s North Dakota.”
In the style of folks at Ohio State who refer to arch-rival Michigan as “that team up north,” Motzko didn’t use the words “North Dakota” often this week, instead talking about, “that green team.” With both games expected to be sellouts, and plenty of North Dakota alumni in the Twin Cities and willing to make the drive from the Red River Valley, there are sure to be plenty of fans of “that green team” inside 3M Arena at Mariucci.
The Gophers and North Dakota have not shared a conference in a decade, and play each other twice a year – three times at most, if they meet in the NCAA tournament. They have two games scheduled in Grand Forks next season, then the rivalry may take a year off, although Motzko offered assurances that they will keep playing, even if there is a pause.
Still, for many of the Gophers, the rivalry with North Dakota overshadows many of their Big Ten foes, even with no conference standing points on the line.
“Whenever it’s North Dakota week, that’s something you dream of as a kid. All of us dreamed of being Gopher hockey players and we’re all here, and the games you dream of are the Gophers beating North Dakota,” team captain Brock Faber said. “There’s been a different type of intensity this week and obviously we’re looking forward to getting this place rocking on Friday and Saturday night and hopefully come out with two wins.”
The Gophers were off last weekend and spent equal amounts of time at the rink and getting their minds off hockey. They are coming off a 3-2 loss at Minnesota State Mankato in their last outing — a game in which the Mavericks physical play was an eye-opener. Star freshman forward Logan Cooley had to be helped from the ice after a hard collision, but finished the game and appears to be healthy.
Perhaps cognizant of the need for some size to shield Cooley and fellow freshman Jimmy Snuggerud, Motzko had Matthew Knies skating with the two prized rookies in practice and may present a different line chart on Friday.
The Gophers are ranked atop the national polls , while North Dakota dropped four spots after a home tie and loss to Quinnipiac last week. Motzko joked that “the green team” would likely be an ornery bunch upon arrival in Minneapolis, coming off a loss.
One notable Fighting Hawk that the Gophers do not need to study video from is goalie Drew DeRidder, who will be very familiar with the rink if he plays in Minneapolis this weekend, having transferred to North Dakota after four years at Michigan State.
Friday and Saturday’s games versus North Dakota are 7 p.m. CT starts and will be televised by Bally Sports North. Former Gophers standout Ben Clymer will serve as analyst for both games. Friday will feature Kevin Gorg on play-by-play with Sam Ekstrom on play-by–play Saturday.
On radio, the Gophers can be heard on 1130 AM / 103.5 FM in the Twin Cities with Wally Shaver and Frank Mazzocco in their 11th season together describing the action.
Postgame interviews with coach Motzko and Gophers players can be seen live, roughly 10 minutes after the final horn at The Rink Live’s Facebook page .
The Gophers and North Dakota played a single game in Minneapolis on Feb. 4, 1930, for their official first meeting – a 6-1 Minnesota win. The Gophers lead the all-time series 149-135-16 with the teams splitting a series in Grand Forks last season. The teams have met five times in the NCAA playoffs, with the Gophers holding a 3-2 edge. Their last NCAA tourney meeting was in the semifinals of the 2014 Frozen Four in Philadelphia, with the Gophers winning 2-1 on Justin Holl’s goal with 0.6 seconds left in the third period.