This is Saturday. So the Gophers better be wary.
Every series this season, they have played better the first game. Last weekend was the most dramatic difference. They beat Vermont 6-0 on Friday, then lost to the Catamounts 5-4 on Sunday. That's a seven-goal swing: Win by six, lose by one.
Will Alaska Anchorage play them tough tonight after losing 5-0 to the Gophers on Friday? Maybe. But Gophers need to figure out a way to win. Going up there, a split seemed acceptable. Now it doesn't. Not if you are clearly more skilled than the opponent.
Here are three keys to Gophers win again tonight against UAA:
1. Score first -- and second. The Gophers got a big goal late in the first period from Erik Haula on Friday and two in the middle of the second from Nick Bjugstad and Mark Alt. They let up a little at the end of the second period and committed several unneeded penatlies at end of third. But scoring first, forces UAA to be aggressive on offense, opening up their defense a bit.
2. Go to the net more. The Gophers only had three power plays on Friday. They need to force UAA to commit more penalties by driving hard to the net as often as possible. The pp is one of the team's strengths -- the Gophers were two for three on it Friday -- they need more power play chances.
3. Play Patterson. That's right. Put him in the nets and don't worry about him. He is playing with a lot of confidence, not giving up many rebounds at all. As long as Kent Patterson is in the nets, the Gophers have a chance.
Two weekends ago, the Gophers swept Minnesota Duluth 5-4 in overtime and 5-4 in regulation. Don't see a decline in play there?. Well, the first night UMD outshot the Gophers 50-44, the second night 50-16. Enough said.
* Early report from Anchorage says Gophers going with same lines as Friday.