Gophers coach Don Lucia said after Saturday's tie the coaching staff complimented the players about what they have accomplished so far this season, rather than getting on them.

"Look at where we are sitting," he said on Monday during his weekly radio show on 1500ESPN. "We have got 11 wins. We are 8-2 in the league and we only have had three home games in the league. What we tried to do is take this weekend out of it and try to remind the guys about the big picture where we are."

The Gophers have a one-point lead over Minnesota Duluth a little more than a third of the way through their 28-game conference schedule.

"And we are fine [with] the way we played [in East Lansing, Mich.]," Lucia said, referring to a 4-3 loss to Michigan State and a 4-4 tie. "Our guys played their rear off on Saturday night. And really Friday, too, we outshot them almost two to one. Kent [goalie Kent Patterson] probably would like to have one or two of those [goals he gave up on Friday] back. He had been so good all year long. It is almost surprising when he let's one in he probably should have had.

"But we were right there. Both games were well-played, hard fought and it came right down to the end both nights." 


Nick Bjugstad and Kyle Rau are setting quite a scoring pace for the Gophers.

Bjugstad, a 6-5 sophomore center, has 15 goals and 25 points already. He is tied for the national lead in goals and points.

Rau, his linemate and a 5-8 left winger, has 10 goals and 18 points. That's three more goals and four more points than any other freshmen playing Division I hockey.

"When you have 15 goals at Thanksgiving, [Nick] is on pace to have a terrific year," Lucia said. "And certainly Kyle Rau, with 10 already, that is pretty amazing as a freshman, too. They seem to work really well together. And that's one of the reasons we are winning games.

"We have some guys that are scoring on a pretty consistent basis. You have to defend, you have to goaltend, but you still have to get a timely goal. And, to me, that is the biggest difference this year, we are scoring more timely goals than we have had the past few years. And that has to continue."

Rau, by the way, has four game-winning goals, tying him for the national lead among all players in that category.

"We need everybody chipping in. We are at our best when we have that consistency throughout our lineup. Early on, it seemed like everybody was involved. Then for a while we are getting scoring off one line, which made it more difficult to win."

Bjugstad's line is the one that is scoring. Here is the breakdown:

First line, maroon: Rau-Bjugstad-Zach Budish ... top two goal-scorers, 29 goals, 29 assists -- 58 points

Second line, gold: Sam Warning-Erik Haula-Jake Hansen ... Haula started hot, has cooled, 16 goals, 26 assists -- 42 points

Third line, black: Nate Condon-Taylor Matson-Seth Ambroz ... Ambroz has struggled to score, 10-13 -- 23 points

Fourth line, blue: Tom Serratore-Travis Boyd-Nick Larson ... Serratore best hitter on team, 4-6 -- 10 points

"If we can get that scoring off all of our lines," Lucia said, "especially our top three, in a night in and night out basis that's when we are a dangerous team and that's when we are going to be at our best."

* Lucia said the Spartans scored three of their four goals on Saturday on rushes. "That is something we haven't been giving a lot of," he said. "A couple of them -- we just showed them on video -- a little confusion on who should be covering who. ... On their game-tying goal, we ended up with a defenseman getting outside the dots when he should have stayed in the middle. ... Again those are correctable mistakes."


Lucia had two freshman, second line left wing Sam Warning and third line right wing Seth Ambroz, sit and watch Saturday's game. "They hadn't scored in a while, they were getting a little bit frustrated," Lucia said. "They were still playing well and doing some good things."

But Lucia said he thought it would be good for them to watch a game. "Sometimes you see where the openings are, where you should go," he said. "It was good for both of them. [They went] back to the places they have been most of the year [Monday] in practice. That is where they need to be.

"That's our best line-up when Sam is playing with Erik [Haula] and [Jake] Hansen and when Seth is with [Nate] Condon and [Taylor] Matson. We [had] moved [Travis] Boyd up [from fourth to second line]. Part of it was good. He can make some plays. He got a lot of ice time and got tired a little bit. He is only 18 years old and needs to get stronger. And I also felt our blue line wasn't as strong as it had been over the previous month."

 Lucia said it is not easy to find a group of three that work well together. He said he has several pairs that seem to fit. "And then you find out who you think will be the third guy to work well with that line," Lucia said.

He said he liked Haula and Hansen together as well as Condon and Matson. Both those pairs can play together killing penalties or on the power play, Lucia said.

"And now what is the best fit to go with them [on a line]?" Lucia asked. "We have to continue to grow some of the freshmen. ... And it's not about how are they playing in November, it is how we can get those guys playing in February and March."


Lucia said Minnesota State had eight players out with injuries at one time this season and only had 19 players available for one game in Denver.

"Until you can put your line-up on the ice, you don't know what kind of team you have," Lucia said. "And that has been the case with Minnesota State. They have a lot of veterans. They did turn over a couple of good defenseman last year." 

He said the Mavericks, in a series at Duluth, had to use two forwards among their top six defensemen because of injuries. 

"You pull seven or eight guys out of our lineup, and I guarantee you, our record would probably be reversed," Lucia said. "And that happened to us last year at times where we were down to 18 skaters in some of those games in November. And you are not the same team. So they are starting to get some guys back.

"As they get healthier, they are going to be a whole lot better."