Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Gopher Hockey Christmas List, and What Santa Left Under the Tree

Hello fellow Gopher Puck lovers! Let me regale you with a story of Little Donny Lucia and his Christmas miracle.

Little Don Lucia awoke on Christmas morning to a surprise. There were presents under the locker room tree! He had left Santa Claus a long wish list, and we can only wait and see if Santa delivered.

Little Donny’s list was long indeed. First on that list was...

1. Goal Scoring
  • The Gophers score a dismal 2.50 goals per game and have already been shut out four times on the year. Jay Barriball, one of the team's most consistent scorers, is out for the remainder of the season. Jordan Schroeder, the preseason WCHA player of the year, has stalled out at four goals and eight assists through the season's first 18 games. The power play is connecting at 13.7%, and the Gophers have scored more total goals than only two other WCHA teams (Alaska-Anchorage and Michigan Tech). This team's problem more than anything is goal scoring.
  • Santa, however, left the Gophers a great gift under the tree this year. The Gophers will welcome in transfer Jacob Cepis, a waterbug-type forward with a knack for bulging the twine. Cepis should slot into the top line, and Don Lucia needs to hope that he can unlock the struggling Jordan Schroeder, and that the combination of Cepis-Schroeder-Hoeffel can jump start the anemic offense.
2. Consistency
  • The Gophers are a team that is something of an enigma. They can beat Bemidji State 4-1 one night and lose 6-2 the next. They can lose to Michigan 6-0 and beat Michigan State 2-1 the next evening. This team has shown that they can play up to an elite level when they want to... they just need to do it more often.
  • Santa brought Little Donny a present to help the team's consistency, but he needs help from his friends from across the street Johnny Hill and Grant Potulny in order to open it. The three friends need to work together to open it, and they need the rest of the team to buy into the idea that the coaches know what they're doing in order for the present to work to its full potential.
3. A Goaltending System
  • The Gophers have not been employing a believable goaltending rotation all season. Don Lucia said that he'd be rotating Kangas and Patterson all year, but then started Kangas nearly every game thereafter. Lucia got into a funk where he was playing the hot hand when Kangas won and showing confidence in his goaltender when Kangas lost.
  • Let's hope that Santa brought Little Donny the intestinal fortitude to play both goaltenders throughout the rest of the year. Lucia's Gopher Teams have been at their best when they have a goaltending tandem that is successful. When two goalies can compete at a high level, either one can take over for the other if there is an injury. This team will be a better team overall if and when both Kangas and Patterson are given minutes.
We'll see if Little Donny and crew opened Santa's gifts come Saturday evening, when the Gophers take on Bowling Green in the first game of the Dodge Holiday Classic. Bowling Green is Jacob Cepis' former team, so the tilt should be a big opening game for the Junior Forward. Let's see if the Gophers can continue their current three-game winning streak and get on a roll!

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