The Gophers have a lot to work to do after losing 5-3 to Minnesota State Mankato on Saturday.
This game was in the Mavericks' barn, Verizon Wireless Center. (The lighting on TV looked about as good as a typical barn, too.) But being on the road is still no excuse for the horrible start the Gophers had, being outshot 17-5 and outscored 2-0 in the first 15 minutes. Reminds me of two, three years ago when the Gophers would always start slow, especially on Fridays, even at Mariucci.
Gophers coach Don Lucia became so upset with the team one week, he locked them out of their own locker room and had them use the cramped visitors' locker room for practice one week.
This team seems to be underachieving, after three one-goal wins over powers like Michigan Tech, Canisius and Minnesota State Mankato, they lost. Probably not a bad time for a loss. In early November.
The coaches can get on the players a bit, make some lineup changes. And take them to the edge of the earth -- Alaska Anchorage -- this weekend.
This is a talent team, better than last season's on paper. Deep up front, deep at the blue line, only suspect in the nets. But it has not been able to put an opponent away lately.
Last season the Gophers were dominant early -- five shutouts in the first nine games -- and began 6-0-0 in the WCHA and finished 9-1 against in-state rivals, losing only once to St. Cloud State.
This team is 5-2-0, 2-2-0 in the WCHA. It should drop a few spots at least, in the national ratings. The Mavericks are gritty but hard to consider them a team to be reckoned with after two 5-1 losses the weekend before in the Granite City [St. Cloud].
But enough doom and gloom. The Gophs won the faceoff battle, crushing the Mavs 40-27. Nick Bjugstad was the pace-setter, winning 11 of 16 draws.
So they just need to improve their defense, intensity, etc., etc. Oh, the expectations on the defending MacNaughton champions and a Frozen Four team. Gophers coach Don Lucia tried to lower those lofty hopes on Monday during his radio show saying, the Mavericks were probably deeper up front than his team. For one night on Saturday, he was right as absurd as that seems.
How many recruiting battles does MSU win with the Gophers? Maybe if coach Mike Hastings' son Hudson, 10, develops into a player, the Mavs might pry him away from Lucia's clutches -- maybe not if he wants to go away from home.
There were 4,854 fans, a full house, at V-W-C last night. The Gophers draw on the road. And should know the home team -- now 3-3-2, 1-3-0 -- will be jacked up to play.
One Gophers who played well was junior center Erik Haula. He had a goal, two assists and a team high six shots on net.
He was named the game's second star after Dylan Margonari, who scored the game-winner for MSU. Josh Nelson, another Mav, was the third star.
+ The Gophers' top line of Bjugey, Kyle Rau and Zach Budish were all minus-2 as were D-men Seth Helgeson and Mark Alt. Those are some of the Gophers' top players.
+ The power play was just 1-for-5 against one of the nation's worst penalty killing teams; MSU was 1-for-6 on the power play. The Gophers had just six shots amd one goal while being a man up for 9:32.
+ For the second game in a row, the Gophers got a penalty for too many men on the ice. You can only have five, plus the goalie. Remember that.
* Eriah Hayes stood out for the Mavs with seven shots. He also was plus-2 but didn't have a point.
* The Gophers were outshot for the first time this season, 35-28.