PHILADELPHIA — The Minnesota players didn’t get back to their hotel rooms until after midnight Thursday and the adrenaline that was still running through their bodies had them wired a little while longer.
Advancing to the national title game after a dramatic buzzer-beating goal with 0.6 seconds in the Frozen Four semifinal against North Dakota was enough to make it tough to get some sleep. Lucky for them, they have plenty of time before Saturday night’s 7:36 p.m. ET puck drop to rest up and decompress before facing Union.
Now comes the task of the players and the coaching staff to say goodbye to the celebrating of such an emotional win and shift their focus toward the goal they’ve had all season long: winning a national championship.
“When you wake up you realize tomorrow you get to play for a national title, you better get your mind ready to go,” said Kyle Rau, who’s defensive zone face-off win started the play that led to Justin Holl’s winning goal. “[I]f you’re not, you're going to come out laying eggs.”
Both the Minnesota players and head coach Don Lucia stressed that the start of the transitioning process begins with Friday’s practice. And there’s plenty to improve upon before they play their final game of the season.
“We need to play better tomorrow to beat Union than we played last night,” said Lucia. “I thought some of our young guys played tentative. It's amazing. Sometimes you're a little nervous and your legs get heavy and you're not moving the way they need to move. I thought that we were fortunate in some regards last night to be moving on, but sometimes you have to find a way to win. We found a way to win and we stuck with the game until we made a play. But we have to be a little bit sharper and get pucks behind ‘D' and establish some more offensive zone time than what we did last night, because Union is a very, very talented team.”
The final game of the college schedule also means the end of careers. For Minnesota senior forward Nate Condon, a 2008 draft pick of the Colorado Avalanche, he’s experienced two disappointing finishes to the last two Golden Gophers seasons. At the 2012 Frozen Four, Boston College knocked them off 6-1 and last year Yale scored nine seconds into overtime to win 3-2 in the West Regional Semifinal.
Condon knows Saturday night is the end and could be the culmination of everything the program has been building toward since he arrived on campus.
“It's a last shot at everything,” said Condon. “That’s kind of what is expected at Minnesota is that we make this game. I think that it's big for our class coming in that when we were freshmen we kind of struggled.
“Now to be seniors and kind of hitting the top of where we can reach here, it's really great for us to think that we maybe had that kind of success while we've been at the program.
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