Thursday, January 7, 2010

Same Old, Same Old: Gophers Split in Holiday Classic with Pair of Lackluster Performances

After Friday night's tilt against the Bowling Green Falcons, you could have said that the Golden Gophers overcame the rust of their three-week layoff and came back with a gritty third period to win the game. After losing Saturday's game to Northern Michigan, though, even the most ardent Gopher supporters must admit that it was yet another weekend of subpar performances and subpar effort from the Maroon and Gold.

After being outplayed for the first two periods against Bowling Green, the Gophers fought back and scored a couple gutsy goals in the third period, adding an empty netter to win 3-1 on Friday night.

The team played a great first period, outshooting the Wildcats 18-7 in the opening frame. They only got one goal on those 18 shots, though, as Wildcat goaltender Brian Stewart made 48 saves on the night and looked pretty solid throughout (of course, the Gophers make every goaltender look solid, but I digress).

If the excitement of Gopher Hockey returning isn't enough, though, this weekend marked the Gopher debut of forward Jacob Cepis. Cepis, a transfer from Bowling Green, is a small, quick playmaker that can also score some goals. He looked great this weekend, the best player on the ice on Friday against (who else) Bowling Green, and another solid game Saturday, scoring his first ever Gopher goal.

Cepis should play a big role on the team down the stretch, as he provides some scoring punch (one thing that the Gophers severely lack). Hopefully, when Jordan Schroeder returns from his stint on the U.S. World Junior team this weekend, the two can hook up and create some scoring opportunities throughout the rest of the year.

This weekend's Three Gopher Stars:

3. Mike Carman
Carman played solid games both nights, scoring the game-tying goal and adding an assist on Mike Hoeffel's game-winner. Carman was great as usual on the penalty kill and had a good weekend all-in-all.

2. Mike Hoeffel
As mentioned previously, Hoeffel scored the game winning goal with just under three minutes left in the third period. He also scored the first goal of the Northern Michigan game. Hoeffel continues to be the only consistent goal scorer on this Gopher team, and if this Gopher team is going anywhere this year Hoeffel needs to lead them there.

1. Jacob Cepis
Cepis was the best player on the ice all weekend, skating around players, making good passes, and just being a pest for the other team to handle. Cepis also added his first Gopher goal against Northern Michigan. He could be a major piece to the puzzle as Don Lucia hopes to get this team back on track.

The Gophers face off against Harvard this weekend. Harvard has won two games all year, and the Gophers NEED to win this Friday and Saturday to get the season back on track. Look for Jordan Schroeder to come back from the World Junior tournament re-energized and ready to start the second half of the season with a bang. This series, of course, is just a warm up for next weekend's big tilt with the North Dakota Fighting Sioux. Seven or Eight points over the next two weekends would be a good sign that this team is back on track.

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