Friday, January 28, 2011

Sioux Dominate Gophers 4-1; Loss Makes Road to NCAAs Tougher for Minnesota

After an emotional win Friday night against North Dakota, the Fighting Sioux came back strong Saturday, thoroughly dominating the Gophers in all facets of the game and winning by a 4-1 margin. Despite the fact that the Gophers scored the first goal of the game on a Mark Alt shot from the point, the team may have spent all its energy in Friday night's fisticuffs.

The Sioux limited Gopher chances, rarely if ever allowing Minnesota quality scoring opportunities. North Dakota, on the other hand, capitalized on their own chances, getting two powerplay goals on the night to power their side to victory.

The Gophers player of the game was clearly Kent Patterson, who turned back a ton of great Sioux chances and kept the Gophers in the game for his part.

More important than this single game, though, is the implications the loss had on Minnesota's chances of making the NCAA tournament. From everything I've seen, the Gophers need to get somewhere around 10 more wins on the season to make the big dance. Obviously, the tournament committee uses the Pairwise rankings (), but 10 more wins the rest of the season should vault the Gophers into the top 14 of the Pairwise. The problem is that the Gophers only have 14 more guaranteed games left on the schedule (six regular season series, at least two playoff games). And those games aren't cakewalks.

The Gophers have three series that, according to the records of the teams they're playing, should be "sweepable" - at home against UAA this weekend, at home against Michigan Tech, and away at Bemidji St. The three "tough" series for Minnesota have the Gophers at UMD, home against Denver and at Wisconsin. The way I see it, the Gophers need 9 points out of the "sweepable" series (that's something like 4-1-1 over those six games), which means they would need to get around 7 points in their other six tough games (somewhere around 3-2-1). Of course, this all assumes that the Gophers win their first round WCHA series and make it to the Final Five, where they have a chance to pick up some more victories.

Even those results sound like a tall task for the Gophers to accomplish. Any point the Gophers give up in the three series against the beatable teams is a point they'll need to make up against the tough teams, so they cannot afford to give up more than the three points I projected above.

The Gophers are in action this Friday and Saturday against Alaska-Anchorage. If they can weather the Seawolf onslaught and come out of this weekend with four valuable points, it will be a good start towards making their way into the NCAA tournament for the first time in three years.

Go Gophers!

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