Friday is one of those days that's hard not to love: last day of the work week (for most people), the beginning of the weekend, and during the school year it means Gopher sports are happening or about to happen. Friday is a great day, don't get me wrong, but I've found two things I don't like about it: one, obviously, is this Rebecca Black video. It's horrible (I also had to click on it to link to it and now have that stupid song stuck in my head. So whatever you do, don't click that link! Don't do it!).
The other would be Minnesota Golden Gopher hockey, or at least the way they play on Fridays. The Gophs lost last Friday in OT to Michigan Tech, which was their fourth loss in their past five Friday games. Tech's a solid club, especially defensively, but this is not a team Minnesota should lose to at home. They scored the first goal before giving up the next two, having to rally late to tie and then lose in OT. Saturday night? They blew the Huskies right out of the building, which has actually been a typical weekend series for Minnesota not just this season, but the past five. Struggle in the opener (almost always on a Friday) and then settle the score in the second game (almost always on Saturday).
Yeah the Gophers started this season hot winning 10 of their first 11, including 5 straight Friday night victories. Then things turned, as Minnesota is just 5-4-1, including the aforementioned 1-4 Friday skid. And while I'm not here to say the sky is falling or the season is in serious trouble, I would just like to point out that this has become a trend under coach Don Lucia the past five seasons (including this one). Just look at these numbers which compare Friday games vs Saturday/Sunday games going back to the 2007/08 season...
Five season Friday record: 29-31-12
Now compare that to how they've done in Saturday or Sunday games the past five years:
Five season Saturday/Sunday record: 45-27-13
Ok seriously- what IS that? How can Minnesota be two games under .500 in series openers and 18 games OVER .500 in the second game the past five years? What kind of sense does that make? I don't have an answer here, I'm legitimately asking- what is going on? Is it preparation? Does the team and staff take a game to adjust? Is there a good reason they're being outplayed in the opener before finding their form in the second game? My limited hockey mind- heck my limited sports mind in general- points to preparation, yet that doesn't explain how the same preparation of practice and film and strength training makes them dramatically better in the second game of a series than the first. Anyone? Beuller?
With the Gophers strong start this season I thought we were past this, and that we'd get a consistent effort in every game, but the past month of games have proven otherwise. They went into Duluth and beat the still #1-ranked Bulldogs on a Friday night when that crowd and that team were willing the Gophers to lose, and yet it didn't happen. In one of their biggest tests of the season, they beat North Dakota in back-to-back nights (that same UND squad who, after a slow start, have quietly snuck up to 18th in the country and 22nd in the Pairwise). And yet four of the last five Fridays- only one of which was against a team ranked in the top 20 of the Pairwise which is Michigan State at #9- the Gophers have struggled out of the gate and lost, only to recover with a better effort the next night.
The numbers of the Friday/Saturday disparity don't lie, I'm just wondering what they mean? Because these numbers don't lie either: Gopher hockey currently sits #2 in the latest rankings, 7th in the Pairwise, are tied with Duluth for the most points in the WCHA, have the top defense, and second best offense, power play, and penalty kill in the conference. This is the best team we've had in years, a team with a legit shot to win the conference, grab a #1 seed in the NCAA's, and make a run at the Frozen Four for the first time in far too long. And yet...the Friday thing makes me nervous. Should I be? And does anyone have a rationally explanation for why they seem to struggle in their series openers? I still love me some Friday, and while that Rebecca Black song will always be the absolute worst thing about that beloved day, Gopher hockey's performance is creeping up the list. Let's hope the Christmas break fixes the Friday problem for Gopher hockey, and the Rebecca Black song? Just don't click the link. Don't do it.