Gophers: Bob Motzko talks visiting Hockey Hall of Fame, facing St. Cloud State

The University of Minnesota men’s hockey team came back from its holiday break with a 3-2 win over the U.S. National 18-and-under team in an exhibition at 3M Arena at Mariucci on Dec. 29.

Two days later, Bob Motzko and the Gophers took advantage of a New Year’s Eve trip to Bemidji State. They left with a 2-1 win over the Beavers, and took advantage of the bus ride north with a trip to the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in Eveleth before the game.

The Gophers took in hockey history, and got to meet hockey legend John Mayasich. An Eveleth native, Mayasich played for the Gophers and set a program record with eight points in a game. He also won Olympic gold in 1960. He was inducted to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1976.

"They saw the pictures and John’s enthusiasm to show off Eveleth. We were all in awe of John, John can still play, we had a hard time keeping up with him running around the lobby. I hope they got it like us older people got it. It was special," Motzko said.

The Gophers are 15-5 overall, 10-2 in the Big Ten and are No. 1 in the current Pairwise Rankings. They have a weekend home-and-home series with St. Cloud State, ranked No. 5 nationally. It’s a homecoming of sorts for Motzko, who left the Huskies after the 2017-18 season to replace Don Lucia as head coach of the Gophers.

The Huskies enter the weekend 14-4, and host Minnesota Saturday night before the Gophers host the series finale Sunday afternoon.

"I spent a lifetime there and that place afforded me a whole lot of great opportunities, and I’m forever grateful for my time there," Motzko said. "Is it a big weekend? Sure it is. We’re going to get their A game, it’s up to us to bring our A game."

He’s also hoping to have a complete roster for the first time in several weeks. The Gophers have been without Ryan Chesley, Luke Mittelstadt, Logan Cooley and Jimmy Snuggerud since Dec. 26, 2022, as all four played for Team USA in the World Junior Championships. They're coming home with a bronze medal.

Motzko said all four are expected back on campus Friday. They’re availability against the Huskies is uncertain. Motzko will talk with all four and see if they need a breather before resuming collegiate play.

"We’re preparing like they’re not going to play. A lot of times they do play and sometimes they don’t. After that conversation, we’ll see where that goes," Motzko said.