Big Ten coaches, players sound off on inaugural season

BY foxsports • September 20, 2013

The first media day of the new hockey era happened in St. Paul: Coaches and key players from all six Big Ten hockey schools yakked up the new season at the Xcel Energy Center. Here's a sampling of that they said:

Gophers head coach Don Lucia on the move to the Big Ten: "I can go back even as a player part of a league with Michigan and Michigan State so it's not as foreign to me as a coach. Now the teams are back together and I think we've all felt all along that at some point this was going to happen. From our perspective, it's exciting. From the players' perspective, there's the newness, the freshness of a new league -- that added excitement. There's a little trepidation with some of our fans but I believe they're going to see that at Minnesota we're going to have the best of both worlds. We're part of the Big Ten, we'll continue to play our in-state rivals, a lot of our former rivals from the WCHA over time. I think it's going to be a very successful move for us and our program."

Lucia on his young but experienced defense: "Adam Wilcox (G) had a great year for us last year. With Mike Reilly and Brady Skjei, Ben Marshall, Justin Holl and Jake Parenteau, we have five experienced defensemen who I think can play at the Big Ten level. That should be one of the strengths of our team."

Lucia on his young forwards: "We'll probably have five to six freshmen playing (as forwards) on a nightly basis but we do think those guys have some talent and are going to be able to score for us. That will be the real key for us, not only how well will the freshmen pay this year but also the returning guys, can they make another step in their development. We're excited, we've been on the ice a couple of time and we're ready to go."

Other quotes: "Big Ten anything is a big deal, no matter what sport it is, and it's an honor to be a part of such a prestigious league." -- Penn State junior forward Tommy Olczyk

"If we recruited you to come to Penn State, we believe you're someone hungry to accept that challenge. We don't know. Trust me, we're not naive. We understand very well how great the programs are in the Big Ten Conference." -- Guy Gadowski, Head Coach, Penn State

"Expansion is always good because there's a ton of youth hockey players out there who have a dream of playing college hockey." -- Wisconsin defenseman Frankie Simonelli

Meanwhile, over at the Target Center: By a strange coincidence, the new National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) was holding its pre-season media day. Predictably, all the coaches are saying the new conference, which scooped up many of the best WCHA programs, won't take a back seat to anyone.

"The Big Ten really hasn't out-recruited our league at all. One consistent thing is that we're going to be down here at the Target Center (where the NCHC will hold its conference tournament) every year. Minnesota and Wisconsin are going to be moving back and forth from the Xcel every other year. So we're going to get a lot of Minnesota fans over here when they go to the Joe." -- Dean Blais, Head Coach, Nebraska Omaha

"I have no interest in trying to be what somebody else is. We're going to stay very deeply rooted in the tradition of what our program is, recruit to that tradition and continue to be very strong in the areas where we've traditionally been strong." -- Dave Hakstol, Head Coach, North Dakota

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