Cheer up Gophers hockey fans. The sun came up on Saturday morning. Here are 10 positives from the Gophers' 3-1 loss to Wisconsin on Friday:
10. The Gophers won the faceoff battle, 35-22. Quickest sticks on the drop of the puck were centers Erik Haula 11-5 and Taylor Matson 7-2.
9. The Gophers committed only two penalties. Seth Helgeson was called for high-sticking, Ben Marshall for hooking. That's it for transgressions calling for whistles. Both are defensemen.
8. Coach Don Lucia got a chance to shuffle his top lines -- and he remembered how. He hasn't had to switch around his forwards much all season, but did this game to try to generate some offense.
7. The Gophers won the special teams battle. They had three shots and were one-for-three on power plays and held the Badgers to one shot and zero-for-two on their power plays.
6. The Gophers play Wisconsin again at 7:30 p.m. Saturday with a chance to avenge Friday's loss -- little time to be depressed -- and then play the Badgers two more times on March 2-3 at Mariucci Arena. Will take UW seriously. Coach Lucia said he warned his players beforehand the Badgers play better at home. Turns out he was right.
5. Jake Hansen played well -- and got rewarded. Hansen, the senior right wing on the Gophers' second line had a team-high four shots on goal and scored the visitors' only goal. It came on a rebound on a power play at 18:51 of the third period. Impressed me when Badger roughing him up -- hand to face -- and Hansen didn't retaliate early in second period. Result was a U of M power play.
4. At least Minnesota didn't get shut out. The TV announcers were wondering why Lucia didn't pull Patterson earlier. So was the Wisconsin State Journal sports reporter sitting next to me. So was I. ... Part of it was the Badgers controlling the puck. Even so, the empty net time was listed at just 22 seconds. ... Oops, straying from the positives.
3. The Gophers really don't like being rated No. 1. They moved up from No. 5 last week to No. 1 on Monday but probably won't hold that spot unless they are impressive on Saturday and other would-be top teams falter this weekend. Last time the Gophers were No. 1 -- in November 2008 when the present seniors were freshmen -- the maroon and gold went 1-2-1.
Three years ago this month, the Gophers beat Denver 5-2 at Magness Arena with yours truly in the stands. Then DU coach George Gwozdecky, GG as I like to refer to him, shook up his lines, benched a few players and the Pioneers won 4-0 the next night. The following weekend, in the College Hockey Showcase, the Gophers lost to Michigan 6-3 at Mariucci in a game three of their players got hurt and tied Michigan State 4-4 after a scoreless overtime.
2. Many of the Gophers' top-end players are well-rested for Saturday's game. They didn't do much Friday.
1. The most positive thing about Friday was that nobody on the Gophers appeared to get hurt.
Feel better now?