This is the big test for the Gophers. They've been waiting the past year for this moment. The chance to come back and avenge their embarassing upset loss to Holy Cross in last year's tournament.
Ever since that loss, Coach Don Lucia has tried to change his coaching style a little bit to better prepare his team for this moment. There was a greater emphasis placed on practice. He suspended two seniors before the first game of the season. Tyler Hirsch was dismissed from the team, with hopes that the long-term benefit would be that the Gophers wouldn't have any distractions in the NCAA tournament. Recently, he addressed his team about the importance of this time of year, and told them to not have any contact with their advisers until after the tournament. Will those moves pay off?
Personally, I think they will. One advantage that I think the Gophers have this year is excellent senior leadership. When the Gophers play up to their potential, there is no other team in the country that can compete with them.
The key for Minnesota in their first game will be much the same as last year. If they can score a couple of goals early, they should be able to bury Air Force. If Air Force can keep it close early and score first, the Falcons may have a chance.
After that, anything can happen. Minnesota has never had a problem getting fired up to play Michigan and North Dakota. I like their chances against either team. From there, anything could happen in the Frozen Four.