"At some point they have to look and say, 'I have to play better,' and obviously if we are not doing our part, we have to do our part as coaches," Gophers coach Don Lucia said on Friday after his team's 3-1 loss to Minnesota State Mankato.
It was actually a 2-1 game until the last minute, but the Mavericks outplayed the U of M in their own rink for the first period and a half. The shots were 18-4 after the first period even though the score was tied at 1-1. Kent Patterson made a career-high 39 saves.
"There are a lot of guys that probably say, 'I haven't done -- my oar isn't in the water the way it needs to be if we are going to get this boat going in the direction we want it to go in,' " Lucia said. "We got to get mentally tougher. The bottom line is we have to come out and play with passion and heart every night to give this group a chance to win.
"We are not a good enough group where we can just come and say, 'You know what? We are just going to go out and play and see what happens.' We are not going to win [that way]. It is too competitive right now in college hockey. We had some guys who I didn't think -- the bench was quiet. Those are all indications when you have that that it is one of those games. It's frustrating. I am frustrated, there is no question."
It's unfortunate for Gophers fans the way things are falling. The U plays two games in Michigan, and the 6-0 rout at the hands of Michigan on Friday is televised, the 2-1 victory over Michigan State on Saturday is not.
Last weekend, the Gophers lose 3-1 at home and play poorly, then play well and win 6-2 on Saturday but that is in Mankato. At least that game was televised -- if you stayed up late. It was on tape delay. It's challenging to be a Gophers fan these days.
So what are the Gophers lacking? "When you are averaging a little over two goals a game, you start there," Lucia said. "We are not scoring enough. We are not loaded with a bunch of all-league players."
Lucia said his team can play well at times as it did in the last Saturday in November when the Gophers beat Michigan State 2-1. "We have to be like ... when we played [the Spartans," Lucia said. "Whoever we threw over the boards were moving there feet and playing and that's the kind of effort and expectations we should all have for each other."
The Gophers especially have struggled at home, at Mariucci Arena.
"We have not played well at home," Lucia said. "We are sitting with a 3-6 record at home. We should all be embarrassed by that.
"As a coach you never really worry about the big picture. You are always trying to evaluate where your team is at. What you are lacking. What you can try to do. You watch the video. You see some good things, you see some bad and you continue to work and continue to work. We have to play -- we are capable of playing a lot better than what we play [Friday] night.
"Minnesota State played well. They deserved to win the game [Friday]. But I don''t think the way we played the first half of the game, even though it was 1-1, we still had a chance to win the game. But, I've done this long enough -- there are plenty of games where you play well but you lose and you are OK with it., And there are sometimes you can play awful and win and it's like you know what, 'We got away with it that time.' But it's not going to happen longterm.
"So we have to play with a lot more passion and move our feet and have to want to get there if we are going to be successful. We are all disappointed. I am disappointed where we are at. I didn't think we would be sitting where we are.
"We have to look at each other. The answers are in the mirror. Nowhere else. ... It's not like we can pull up eight guys. We don't have them. This is our group."
Lucia singled out sophomore winger Jake Hansen as an example of a player who is improving
"Jake Hansen now, he is starting to score some goals," Lucia said. "He has a little more hop to his step. I thnk it's hard on some guys, they are sitting there, it's December and they have goose eggs for goals. That's hard on you. You want to contribute. But if you are not contributing that way, you have to find other ways to contribute."
He means hits, blocked shots, creating turnovers, etc. This is a theme Lucia has often brought up this season.