Originally posted on The Sports Bank  |  Last updated 10/13/11

The #14 rated Minnesota Gophers men’s hockey team drops the puck on their final season of WCHA play this weekend as they travel to Duluth to play the defending national champion #9  ranked Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs.

The Gophers enter this weekend coming off a sweep against the woeful Sacred Heart Pioneers last weekend. The Bulldogs are coming off a split against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

I preview this weekend series with an interview with Bulldogs junior defenseman (and fellow Brainerd, Minnesota graduate) Drew Olson.

Olson, who was a fourth-round pick of the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2008, played in 34 games netting one goal and three assists for the national champion Bulldogs in the 2010-11 season.

Offensively, the Bulldogs are led by sophomore winger J.T. Brown (16 goals, 21 assists in 2010-11) and senior center Jack Connolly (46 goals and 93 assists in his three plus year career).

For the Gophers, sophomore center Erik Haula (6 goals and 18 assists in 2010-11, and 3 goals and 2 assists this season) lead the young Gophers offensive attack.

In net for the Gophers will be junior goaltender Kent Patterson. Patterson is coming off a weekend in which he recorded two shutouts, and played phenomenally in net for the Gophers.

Here is the Olson conversation:

Brett Cloutier:

Even though you guys are the defending national champions, and the team to beat in my opinion in the WCHA this season, are the Gophers still a team that you circle on the schedule?

Drew Olson:

Yeah they are. Even though we’re defending national champions, we still have to prove ourselves every single weekend. The WCHA is the best league in college hockey, so no matter what team we play it’s always going to be a battle every weekend in this league. Especially since we are defending champions, everyone is going to be giving us their best so they can beat us.

BC:

As defending national champions, how has preparation for this WCHA season been different from your previous two years in Duluth?

DO:

The preparation for this season I think is a lot different. It was different in the sense that we are working that much harder this year. Since we did win it last year, it doesn’t mean that it’s going to be easier this year. It just makes it harder to repeat.

BC:

Gophers’ junior goaltender Kent Patterson comes off a weekend in which he recorded a pair of shutouts against an inferior Sacred Heart Pioneers team. Offensively, how does your game plan change facing a goalie of Patterson’s quality?

DO:

Yeah, he is a very good goalie, but we don’t worry about that. If we stick to our game plan, get pucks on the net and try to fluster him, we’ll be just fine.

BC:

There is no hiding the fact that the Gophers have a ton of talent offensively, but with that talent comes an extreme level of inexperience. They are led by sophomore center Erik Haula (3 goals and 2 assists last weekend vs. Sacred Heart). As a defensemen, how do you prepare for a core of forwards with little experience in WCHA play?

DO:

Well, every team in the WCHA is extremely skilled. We’re not taking the Gophers lightly by any means. So as a D core, I think we need to be as physical as possible with these guys and not give them any room to use their skill.

 

Friday’s game starts at 7:05 p.m. and can be seen on FSNorth or on radio at AM1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

-Brett Cloutier

Brett is a contributor to The Sports Bank. He covers all things Minnesota sports. You can follow him on Twitter @brettcloutier.

 

 

 

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