Slow starts plagued the Gophers hockey team often last season. On Saturday, the problem returned.
"We talked all week about coming out hard and having a good first 10 minutes and I thought we came out a little lethargic to play," Lucia said on Monday, referring to his team's 4-3 loss to Notre Dame. "Some of the guys mentioned they felt tired. I don't know why. We had maybe the extra day of practice."
Last weekend the Gophers played the Irish in only one game, the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game.
"But for the first time in a while, we didn't have a great practice the day before on Friday and it seemed like it just carried over," Lucia said. "Early in the game on [Saturday], we couldn't get anything going in the first 10, 15 minutes. And Notre Dame certainly carried the play in the first period, led 1-0."
The Gophers even had a five-minute power play in the opening period, but managed just two shots.
"Our D-corps has played very well this year," Lucia said during his weekly radio show on 1500ESPN. "They struggled on Saturday with some turnovers and a couple of guys having off games didn't help. Kent [Gophers goalie Kent Patterson] the first half of the game played very well and kept us in there at times.
"It is a fine line. You win some games early by a goal and now the last couple of weeks we have lost a game by a goal. We got to get back to being on the positive side of those one-goal games."
The Gophers were 3-1 in one-goal games during their 9-1 start, but are 1-4 in one-goal games in their 6-6-1 malaise.
CLEAR THE PUCK!
"I have broken down all of our games here [Monday]," Lucia said. "In the last month our shots against our down, our shots for are up."
He said the one area that has broken down is the Gophers' penalty kill. "Some of that is, we have given up five-on-three goals, three or four of them. But we got off to a great start, about 91 percent on our penalty kill. In the last dozen games or so, we are about 78 percent. So that is a good-size drop off.
"Like Saturday, we gave up two power-play goals and both times, we had opportunities to clear pucks and that has been an issue with us lately, is just clearing pucks.
"One we kind of muffed it right in front of our net. It went right to their best player in [T.J.] Tynan and he scores. And another right at the blue line in the second period, that little 3-foot area by the line, we don't clear it. It stays in our zone and they get it over to Riley Sheahan [of Notre Dame] for a nice one-time goal."
The Gophers are still second in the league on the penalty kill at 82.9 percent, behind Bemidji State at 85.9 percent.
"Overall, we haven't given up much five-on-five, although they had a lot of good looks to get a few more."
IRISH BETTER THAN UMD
"The [Irish] are the best team we have played," Lucia said. "They were good on their power play, they were good on their specialty teams. They are a big, strong team. They took care of the puck, they were hard on the puck and they were strong with their sticks.
" I didn't think we were real strong with our sticks on some of those puck battles."
Lucia said the Gophers will be playing Notre Dame around the same time next season and seemed to suggest that series would be at Mariucci Arena, too.
"We will be playing for sure over the next four years," he said. "It will be a good opponent to play. It was good, quality hockey [Saturday]. And those are the kind of games our fans want to see."