Another weekend, another step backwards for the Gophers.
Just a week after the University of Minnesota Golden Gopher hockey team posted a breakthrough 5-1 victory against arch-rival North Dakota, they fell flat on their faces in a key series against the St. Cloud State University Huskies.
The Gophers (12-12-2 overall, 7-9-2 WCHA) who are desperately in need of wins and points if they wish to compete in the postseason, played without the desperation and sense of urgency that they needed in order to compete with a quality hockey team. St. Cloud (16-7-3 overall, 11-5-2 WCHA) on the other hand played like a hockey team that deserves its number five position in the Pairwise rankings.
The Huskies got off to early insurmountable leads in both games this weekend. Friday night saw the Huskies off to a 3-0 first period lead on goals from Garrett Raboin, Jared Festler and Garrett Roe. Raboin's goal came at 7:37 of the period on a nifty pass from Festler. The backbreaking goal of the game was Roe's goal which came with only nine seconds left in the first period. The Gophers did not come out entirely flat, winning the shots-on-goal 13-10 in the period, but they were plagued by the same problem they've had all year - goal scoring. The Gophers are eighth in the WCHA at a paltry 70 goals in 26 games this year. They win games when they limit the opponents to two goals or less. Give up three goals or more, and it's the rare game that the Gophers steal.
So, going down 3-0 after the first period is not a good sign for this team. They tried to come back, though. Despite a St. Cloud goal in the period by David Eddy, second period goals by Tony Lucia, Jacob Cepis and Jake Hansen cut the St. Cloud lead to one, at 4-3. Again, though, the Gophers could not finish on their chances, and their comeback bid fell one goal short, as the Huskies took the game by a 4-3 final.
Saturday's game followed a similarly unfortunate trajectory. The Gophers fell down 2-0 in the first period and were down 3-0 after two. Cade Fairchild broke Huskies goaltender Mike Lee's shutout bid in the third period, but an empty net goal by St. Cloud was the nail in the coffin for the Gophers, losing Saturday's recap 4-1. The Gophers had tons of chances in the Saturday game, but again could not score a goal when they needed it.
The Gophers played last weekend's games without the services of Mike Hoeffel, who is out for the next several weekends with mono. Hopefully Hoeffel can lace up the skates again soon, because he is one of the few players on this Gopher team that can actually put the puck in the net, and the team misses his offensive output dearly.
Three Gopher Stars of the Weekend:
3-2-1: Jacob Cepis
Cepis is the only player on the team that deserves a star this weekend, as he's the only guy that seems to care that the team needs wins NOW in order to make the NCAA tournament.
All is not lost, though. I'll post my analysis of the Pairwise rankings and what the Gophers might need to do to make the tournament soon.
Let's hope that the team can bond a little bit when they travel to Anchorage this weekend. We can only hope that they'll have two more wins in the bank when they get back to the mainland!