Balancing rivalries with tough games, this weekend's North Star College Cup brings both to an intersection. Minnesota is #6 in the nation and leads the Big Ten. Yet to many what matters more is doing well against other in-state schools, where the team has struggled - the Gophers have lost six straight against tonight's semifinal opponent, UMD.
I also hope you got to know who Jake Bischoff is a little more by reading the feature.
(This originally appeared in Friday's St. Paul Pioneer Press)
Marking an intersection between U.S. highways 2 and 169, the Iron Range city of Grand Rapids sits between Minnesota destinations. One highway leads east to Duluth. The other winds south towards St. Paul and Minneapolis.
Jake Bischoff is well aware of how much the Twin Ports and Twin Cities influence his hometown. Grand Rapids is his stomping grounds, the place where he still goes back to hunt when the opportunity allows. (During Minnesota’s off-week in November Bischoff proudly ended up with a little buck.)
The senior defenseman grew up a Gophers fan by default. His father, Grant Bischoff, played for Minnesota from 1987-91. Before continuing the family legacy, he was immersed in the history that comes with Friday’s North Star College Cup opponent, Minnesota Duluth (15-5-4).
“Obviously Grand Rapids is closer to Duluth than it is to the Twin Cities. A lot of people from up there grow up as Duluth fans just because of geographically. There’s also a lot of Gopher fans up there, too,” he said. “It was a blast growing up watching that rivalry with the teams and also the fans, getting in little fights with my buddies over the games. That was a blast.”
In that light, this weekend’s four-team tournament at Xcel Energy Center, which also features Bemidji State (16-9-3) and St. Cloud State (11-12-1), takes on a different meaning for the Big Ten-leading Gophers (14-6-2). Being a top-10 team doesn’t matter. The challenge for Minnesota, coming of consecutive last-place finishes in this event, is to find success against in-state schools.