Since there was no TV coverage of the Gophers-Seawolves series this weekend from Alaska, I was listening to the game on radio.
Wally Shaver and Frank Mazzocco concluded early Sunday morning -- after a 2-2 tie -- that the Gophers should be happy coming home with three points from the 49th state.
Gotta disagree, even though I was six hours away by plane and several thousand miles away as the crow flies.
A team that wants to win the MacNaughton Cup for a second season has to start sweeping opponents picked to finish in the bottom half of the WCHA.
So far the Gophers have split on the road at Michigan Tech, split a home and home series with Minnesota State Mankato and will return home from Alaska with a win and a tie for three points. So they have seven points in six conference games. At that pace they will finish with 32, 33 points at the end of the 28-game WCHA schedule.
They had 40 points last season. ... In fourth place, with 33, was North Dakota. Are we back to being happy with home ice? I hope not. Not for a team coming off a Frozen Four run with most of its key players back.
Yes, it's OK, even preferable for the Gophers not to be playing at their peak this time of year. The time to peak is March and April.
But look what Boston College, the defending national champion is doing? The Eagles are on a 8-0 roll after an opening game loss. The Eagles beat arch-rival Boston University 4-2 on Sunday.
BC is flying and by the time Boston College plays in the Mariucci Classic next month, coach Jerry York should be the all-time winning coach in college hockey. He need just four more wins to catch and pass Ron Mason, the former Michigan State coach, who finished his career with 924 victories.
SOFT SCHEDULE SO FAR
This is the soft part of the Gophers' schedule. Remember that. The Gophers haven't played North Dakota, St. Cloud State, Denver, the teams at the top of the conference standings. Those games are all ahead.
And a MacNaughton Cup contender doesn't give up points every weekend.
Two seasons ago, UND won the WCHA with 43 points. The Gophers were fifth with 31. Even if hey had had 33 points -- the pace they are on -- they still would have been fifth.
Denver, St. Cloud State, especially when the Huskies get several injured players back, and North Dakota all look like strong WCHA teams this season. It's too early to tell about Colorado College.
The Gophers should have swept Alaska Anchorage. They dominated the third period and overtime, outshooting the Seawolves 18-6 over those 25 minutes. Happy with a tie? Nope.
Maybe satisfied a little bit, but frustrated a little, too.
This weekend, the Gophers need to sweep Wisconsin which has been reeling from several key losses. Fab freshman Nic Kerdiles is hurt and under NCAA suspension anyway for violating amateur rules. Forward Mark Zengerle, a 50-point scorer from last season, is out, too, with a broken finger
And Bill Butters, an assistant coach in charge of the defenseman, abruptly left the team last week.
A wounded Badger might be dangerous in the wild, but on the ice the Gophers need four points this weekend. Time to pick it up, or at the end of the season, The Don will be talking again late in the season about playing for home ice as he has in recent years. Ugh.
This team should have higher goals than that.
LAWYER NEARLY PERFECT
I improved on my WCHA picks this past weekend, going from 6-4 to a respectable 7-1/2 and 2-1/2, but I was no match for our guest picker, Joe Van Thomme, a lawyer from St. Paul. He was 9-1/2 and 1/2. His only miss, well half-miss, was the Gophers' 2-2 overtime tie on Saturday at Alaska Anchorage.
I've picked ties before, but it's hard to go out on that big a limb. Ties don't happen that much. So congratulations Joe. You've set quite a high standard for our guest pickers to match this season.
We'll find another one this week.
* After a 3-3 tie with North Dakota at the Ralph, the Seawolves had a bye before playing the Gophers. “That bye week took something out of us,’’ UAA goalie Rob Gunderson said, trying to explain a 4-0 loss to the Gophers on Friday.. “Tonight [Saturday], it was like we were back in UND. It was like everyone was champing at the bit, to block a shot, put a puck on net. The boys were battling.’’
The Seawolves blocked 23 shots.
* The Seawolves outshot the Gophers 17-15 through two periods. ... Sophomore winger Seth Ambroz led the Gophers with five shots on goal, Nick Bjugstad and Ben Marshall had four
* Attendance Saturday was 2,911, meaning Sullivan Arena was half full for the Gophers' last visit as a WCHA team. Not good.
* The five power plays UAA had was the most in a game this season. They scored on one of them, so the Seawolves are 2-for-26 with an extra man.