If you live in an area with four seasons, February can often feel interminable even while being the shortest month.
As we fend off the last of the truly cold days — which this year, as often happens, tended to linger longer than we would like — this thought might occur: Will February ever end?
To which the Gophers women's and men's hockey team might answer: We sure hope not.
But Tuesday it is over. March is here. Those two teams — emerging as the best stories in this sports market, even with plenty of competition — can only hope to continue what they started in February.
Patrick Reusse and I talked about the men's team on Monday's Daily Delivery podcast — a squad on a remarkable run for a number of reasons.
But get this: Neither the men nor women lost all month.
The Gophers men have an eight-game winning streak, all in February, punctuated by back-to-back shutouts of Wisconsin over the weekend that earned them the Big Ten regular season title and No. 1 conference tournament seed. They last lost on Jan. 29.
The women have a nine-game winning streak, with eight of those wins in February, and are the No. 1-ranked team in the country. They dispatched St. Thomas in the opening round of the playoffs and will next face Minnesota-Duluth on Saturday. They last lost on Jan. 28.
On the men's side, there are extenuating circumstances that make the run that much more remarkable. The team as a rather pedestrian 15-11 before the run started. Some of the streak was achieved while three top players were in Beijing playing for Team USA. All of it came after standout goalie Jack LaFontaine bolted midyear for a pro contract in Carolina. And it is all very easy to root for against the backdrop of coach Bob Motzko's offseason tragedy.
The women have been rolling for much of the season, shaking off a 1-3 start against tough competition early and getting the best of almost every foe since. Their dominance was particularly evident in February, though, as they outscored opponents 45-9 in those eight wins in the month.
If neither team loses in March ... well, the women will win a national championship and the men will be through to the Frozen Four.
That would turn the best story in town into one of the best stories in years.