Ugh. The Gophers come out of a weekend where they needed to sweep with a dreaded split. They spanked UAA Friday night 5-1 in an offensive outburst we'd all been waiting for, looking like an upper level WCHA team taking care of business against a hapless Seawolves squad. Saturday night...they lost 1-0. And not just to the same "hapless" Seawolves. Nope, this was actually the same "hapless" Seawolves- but with their backup goalie. A backup goalie with a GAA over 4 and a save percentage barely over .800. They made him look like Dominick Hasek. Actually, this series looked like the "new" NHL vs. the old, with Friday night's wide open game resembling the new NHL and Saturday night a classic Jacques Lemaire (Guys! Guys!) neutral-zone death-trap that attempted to kill the great game of hockey.
Friday night was filled with odd man rushes all night long for the Gophers, as they peppered UAA for 46 shots. They skated, they filled the lanes, they put the puck in the net. It was a thing of beauty. Saturday night, UAA coach Dave Shyiak decided to do his best Jacques impression (I'm sure is pregame and intermission speeches sounded something like this) as the Seawolves dropped four guys back all night, clogged up the ice, and dared Minnesota to take chances. There were so many green Seawolf jerseys covering their own end, it looked like grass was growing on the Mariucci ice. Shyiak basically told the Gophs "I don't care if we score tonight, but I know you're not going to."
And they didn't. Don Lucia's Gophers had no answers, playing right into UAA's style all night long. They managed just 30 shots, including single digit totals in both the first (5!) and third periods (just 9 when they needed it most). The scoring woes of the past month that looked solved Friday night were resurrected like a villain in a horror flick Saturday. And "horror" would describe the viewing experience. It was clearly a smart ploy by Shyiak, but I'm sure it had fans who chose to watch this one wishing they could watch anything else instead. Terrible movies like "The Tourist" and "The Rite" were more watchable than "The Gophers".
Thankfully, the Gophers aren't likely to see this tactic again (I'm not sure who's more excited about that- Gophers player and coaches, or the fans watching them. Probably both). Of course, the reason we're not likely to see this tactic again is because the upcoming Gopher opponents don't need them (well, Michigan Tech does, but even if they put 10 guys in their own end, I'm not sure it would matter...wait, MTU's only win and tie in conference play all year was against Minnesota State Mankato...who swept the Gophers. Crap, nevermind). Especially the next three weeks against Duluth, Denver, and Wisconsin.
With that murderer's row coming up, it just exposes how much of a missed opportunity this weekend against UAA was. Starting so well Friday night at home (finally!!!) they missed a chance to rise in the standings. They needed a sweep. They were the better team, and should have had one. Instead, the Gophers finish the weekend exactly where they started it- tied for 6th in the WCHA standings with CC, who also split their series- against some team named North Dakota (what's going on with UND? Splits with us, CC, and UNO? What the deuce is going on up in Grand Forks?). Assuming the Gophs took care of business against UAA, I had liked Minnesota's chances to not just grab the sixth spot and host Colorado College in the first round, but to perhaps sneak up into 5th. Now, four points back of UNO for that fifth spot, it looks like the U will be in a struggle just hang onto sixth.
Opportunity missed in the ugliest of fashions. Gopher hoops gets spanked by Purdue. Not a fun weekend. At least pitchers and catchers report in 16 days.