Michael Russo has covered the National Hockey League since 1995. He has covered the Minnesota Wild for the Star Tribune since 2005, after 10 years of covering the Florida Panthers for the Sun-Sentinel. He uses “Russo’s Rants” to feed a wide-ranging hockey-centric discussion with readers, and can be heard weekly on KFAN (100.3 FM) radio and seen weekly on Fox Sports North.

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Gophers postgame: Message delivered and received

Posted by: Michael Russo under Gophers, Gophers postgame Updated: December 1, 2012 - 11:03 PM

As Don Lucia said, “this was an important game for us” after not only losing 3-2 Friday night, but doing so in a pretty unacceptable fashion.

 
The Gophers were lethargic and sloppy, turning the puck over 50 times and registering only 17 hits by the coaches’ count. Lucia wanted to see a response and he saw just that during a 3-2 win over Nebraska Omaha tonight.
 
It saved me from perhaps going with another Counting Crows lead for a second day in a row. Lead singer Adam Duritz, whom I know, saw my lead from Saturday’s paper about his song, “Omaha,” and tweeted me, “Haha. You kill me Mike. Just can't imagine how, on this day of ALL days, you resisted tossing in a "Long December" reference.”
 
Actually, that would have been clever (Duritz is a much better writer than me) and I joked back that maybe I’d go with that tonight if the Gophers lost.
 
Speaking of losing, Denver lost to Wisconsin, so the Gophers moved into third in the WCHA with 12 points – three behind DU. If St. Cloud State loses at Alaska Anchorage (the Huskies are down 2-0 as I write), the Gophers will be tied with them for second in the conference.
 
Lucia sent a message to his players tonight by scratching Mark Alt, moving Jake Parenteau back to the blue line, inserting Justin Holl on defense, and scrambling his forward lines.
 
But even Nate Condon, who was supposed to play on the first line, barely played there because Lucia wasn’t happy with Travis Boyd’s play. So Condon wound up moving to center.
 
It was that kind of night. An example? The eventual Tom Serratore second-period winning goal was created by Condon and Christian Isackson, who forced the turnover, “and that wasn’t even a line on the line chart,” Lucia said.
 
As for Alt, Lucia said he wanted the veteran defenseman to just watch a game from up top and he indicated he’ll be back in against Colorado College next week.
 
But Lucia was very pleased with Holl’s game with Seth Helgeson, and the play from Ben Marshall on the back end.
 
Nate Schmidt was outstanding in every area tonight, and the whole D corps was for the most part. It wouldn’t shock me if Alt returns to the lineup next weekend and maybe Brady Skjei comes out. He’s been seeing less and less ice time lately.
 
Sam Warning played a pretty solid game. He brings so much speed and energy, and Lucia was pleased with Isackson’s play.
 
Erik Haula scored a goal and assist and Nick Bjugstad scored as well. Haula is tied for second in the WCHA with 19 points. He’s eight points from 100. The Gophers scored two power-play goals and outshot UNO 33-20.
 
“A lot of guys had really good energy and they responded the way we needed to,” said Lucia.
  
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