PHILADELPHIA - The Minnesota Golden Gophers will look to win a sixth NCAA national championship when they face Union at the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday in Philadelphia.
On par with teams like Kentucky in college basketball or Ohio State in college football, just to name a couple of examples, the Gophers have experienced a rich history in men's hockey.
This season, the Gophers return to the championship game for the first time since winning it all in 2003, which closed out back-to-back NCAA championship runs.
If the Gophers win on Saturday, they would be tied for fourth in all-time championships with rival Wisconsin. And they will go for the win with a trio of first team All-Americans. For just the third time in program history, Minnesota boasts three CCM/AHCA Division I All-Americans. Mike Reilly (First Team), Adam Wilcox (Second Team) and Kyle Rau (Second Team) each earned the honor on Friday.
Reilly is the first Gopher to earn First Team honors since Ryan Stoa in 2009. The Gophers also had three All-Americans in 1996 (Brian Bonin, Mike Crowley, Dan Trebil) and 1954 (Ken Yackel Sr., Dick Dougherty, John Mayasich).
But like any championship run, a great team gets great play from its goalie. The Gophers have one of the best in college hockey in Wilcox. In 75 career games played, Wilcox has posted a 51-13-11 overall record. His 51 wins are tied for seventh all-time at Minnesota with Frank Pietrangelo (1982-86).
Meanwhile, the Gophers' opponent comes from a small college in Schenectady, NY. Union College enrollment is just more than 2,200 students and hockey is the school's only Division 1 program. Scholarships are not offered at the small liberal arts college, compared to the maximum of 18 scholarships awarded at Minnesota.
But the No. 3 seed coming out of the NCAA East Regional is hardly ill-suited for the big stage. It was just three seasons ago that the Gophers lost in overtime to Union. At that time, the Dutchmen had yet to reach an NCAA Tournament. The Dutchmen defeated another power house in Boston College on Thursday to earn a spot in the final.
The puck will drop at 6:30 p.m. The game airs on ESPN.