Although the Gophers are ranked third in both major polls, they are barely in the NCAA tournament right now according to the Pariwise rankings that decide the 16 teams and at-large bids (the winner of the conference tournaments all receive automatic bids). Unlike basketball, there are no smoke-filled back rooms in hockey deciding the teams. 17-9-0 Minnesota is presently 13th, which if the season ended today would make them a fourth seed in regional play and give them a much tougher first-round match-up.
Minnesota does have the luxury of hosting the Western Regional at Xcel Energy Center this year but that only helps so much when facing a team like UMD or Notre Dame in the first round.
One reason why the Gophers are so far back despite leading the WCHA is their 4-4-1 non-conference record. With so few non-conference games, they end up weighing more in the formula used to comprise the Pairwise. So those early-season losses to Vermont and Notre Dame hurt even more and make the next few series that much more important.
(Photo via @goldengopherhky)
Gopher hockey has really been on the forefront of social media this year, whether they have been showing the depth chart on Facebook, answering fan questions on Twitter or hosting a live blog on Gophersports.com. It's a good case study for how teams can further connect with their fanbase in the 21st century.
However, Minnesota has gone one step further this week, posting their Twitter handle @goldengopherhky behind the Gophers bench. They are the first University of Minnesota team to do something like that according to Gophers Athletics, although in this modern world I'm sure they won't be the last.
-Dave Starman, who announces games for CBS Sports Network, wrote a commentary on USCHO.com praising Minnesota goalie Kent Patterson.
-Both Gophers beat writer for the Star Tribune Roman Augustoviz and USCHO.com columnist Brian Halverson predict the Gophers to sweep St. Cloud State.
-College Hockey News sees sophomore forward Nick Bjugstad fourth in the Hobey Baker race for the top player in college hockey.