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NCAA Hockey Tournament 2012: Minnesota's Frozen Four Chances Start Close To Home

For a team as steeped in history as the Golden Gopher hockey team, there is not a player on the roster who has played for them in the NCAA Tournament.

It's an odd realization as Minnesota returns to the postseason for the first time since 2008 this weekend as a two seed in West Region. They face Boston University 4 p.m. Saturday at the Xcel Energy Center with the winner playing against the winner of North Dakota-Western Michigan.

The Gophers have lived up to the high expectations of its fanbase this season with a WCHA regular season title, their first since 2007. They began the year 9-1 and the best team in college hockey before coming back down to earth and hitting a rough patch in December and January. Minnesota rallied to finish 26-13-1 but saw their chances to enter the NCAA Tournament on a high note evaporate when they lost to North Dakota 6-3.

One reason for the Gophers' success this season has been their depth. Instead of relying on one line to provide a spark, they have three which can provide offense at any time and six different players have scored more than 30 points and 10 goals. Along with senior goalie Kent Patterson (Colorado Avalanche), who has played nearly every minute this season and leads the nation with seven shutouts, and a revitalized defense coming into his own this season, the team can be a threat at both ends of the ice.

Minnesota also has the advantage of playing this weekend only nine miles away from campus in St. Paul. As the hosts of the West Region, they were guaranteed a spot at the Xcel Energy Center and look to give a pro-Gopher crowd something to cheer about.

After all, it's been a while since they've had the chance to root for Minnesota to go to Frozen Four.

For more on the Minnesota Golden Gophers, check out The Daily Gopher. You can also follow Western College Hockey and SB Nation's NHL hub for more on the NCAA hockey tournament along with our.2012 NCAA Hockey Tournament storystream.

Photographs by Micah Taylor, clairity, and Fibonacci Blue used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.