Jason Gonzalez has covered an array of sports at all levels over the last nine years. He learned ice hockey, however, long before — during the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, Utah (his hometown). He got a close up look of legendary Gophers alum Herb Brooks and other Minnesota hockey greats. Jason has been with the Star Tribune since 2012.
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A lot of good came out of the Gophers’ 6-0 rout of Mercyhurst on Friday night, most notably their showcase of depth in speed. But one obvious area the Gophers will need to improve – on faceoffs.
Despite killing six Mercyhurst power plays, the Gophers struggled to win faceoffs near their own net. Overall they did win more than Mercyhurst, 35-31. It wasn’t good enough for coach Don Lucia.
“One of my concerns is faceoffs. We got some new guys in there,” Lucia said. “Those faceoffs are critical, especially in a penalty kill, because it starts in our zone. That’s an area we have to improve on. With some new centers in there, that’s just something we have to work on.”
Kyle Rau and Justin Kloos are both new centers in the Gophers top two lines. Rau won five and lost 10 faceoffs. Kloos won five and lost five. Third line center Travis Boyd won 10 and lost five.
Expect a much tighter contest on Saturday night against No. 13-ranked New Hampshire. The Gophers’ bright and not-so-bright spots will be well-tested in the Ice Breaker Tournament final.
Here is the game story. Below are a couple postgame videos.
Gophers junior forward Sam Warning:
Gophers coach Don Lucia: