Like REALLY hard. Michigan Tech beat Denver last week! DENVER! Nobody beats DU! Well ok, Minnesota did a couple of weeks ago, and outshot them in two games like 472-6. Or at least it seemed that way. But Michigan Tech proved that it is very dangerous to overlook them. Sure, they only have two conference wins all season, and just four overall. They're not just last in the WCHA in goals for, goals against, goal differential, and power play- they're SPECTACULARLY last! Consider:
- Their 42 goals puts them 12 behind the next closest team (they're also the only WCHA team not averaging at least 2 goals per game)
- 97 against is 15 more than the next closest team Minnesota State (and MTU has two games in hand!!!)
- They're not just the only WCHA team averaging more than 4 goals allowed per game (4.04), but that's almost a full goal more per game than the next closest team (Minnesota State averaging 3.15 Goals against per game)
- They've converted just 12 of 89 power play chances, and at 13.5% is the only team in the conference under 15%
- Their whopping -55 goal differential is 32 goals worse than the next closest team (UAA at -23)
Seriously, MTU might be the worst team in all of college hockey. They are having an epically bad season for the ages...and yet they beat Denver last week. How do you not overlook this team? How do you not automatically expect four points out of this weekend? Well for one thing, you SHOULD expect 4 points automatically out of this weekend. I don't care that the Gophers choked away what should have been another 4 point weekend on home ice against UAA- Michigan Tech is much worse.
Look, the past few weeks the Gophers are playing their best hockey of the season. Small sample size? Definitely, but they SEEM to be figuring things out at just the right time, just as they're hitting the stretch run for the playoffs. They're finally scoring goals, their woefull penalty kill has shown dramatic improvement, their playing more physically, and they're playing better in their own end, to the point Kent Patterson doesn't have to completely stand on his head every night for them to have a chance to win. The team is playing hard, playing with confidence, and they've got something to play for, as the 5th seed is within their sights.So how does The Don keep them focused? Maybe pull out his best Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz impression? Or his best Dan Patrick impression of Lou Holtz at Notre Dame? You remember when ol' Lou was running a national power at Notre Dame (for you kids too young to remember the 1980's the Notre Dame Fightin' Irish used to be a college football juggernaut. No really. They won national championships and had Heisman trophy winners. I know, I know, it's hard to believe now, but it really did happen), and they'd have games against some crappy team like Army who hadn't won all year? As Dan Patrick says in that clip, Lou at the press conference before the game would say things like "We can't beat Army! That's a great football team right there! They put their pants on same way we do!" No matter the opponent, Lou would treat them like the greatest team in the world. I'm sure Lucia has been telling his kids the same thing all week. That or simply "remember UAA? Do you? Do you want to have a repeat of UAA?"
Perhaps I'm jinxing it, perhaps I'm reverse jinxing it, or perhaps what I say has nothing to do with anything at all, but I have full confidence this will be a four point weekend for Minnesota. A good team takes four points from Michigan Tech, and I believe Minnesota is a good team. If after their showing the past three games I'm not on the bandwagon now, then what's the point? As we discussed earlier in the week, Minnesota is one point back of Wisconsin for 5th, but since the Badgers hold the tie-breaker, it's essentially a two point lead. If Minnesota can take four, and St Cloud State can steal a win at home against Sconnie, there's your two points right there. SCSU has been playing well the last few weeks, so they certainly have an upset in them.
In other scoreboard watching for this weekend, Duluth can greatly help the Gophers at CC this weekend, and the more points the Bulldogs take, the further it cements Minnesota's hold on the 6th seed and home-ice advantage in the first round of the WCHA playoffs. It doesn't happen often, but Gopher fans need to be cheering for their two biggest in-state rivals this weekend. I don't like it either, but it's just for this weekend, I promise. If the Gophers can take care of business, and Duluth and St Cloud can help out, Minnesota is going to be in fantastic shape heading into the final regular season weekend against Bemidji.
I know, don't look too far ahead. One game at a time. Michigan Tech puts their pants on the same way we do. The Gophers will take them seriously, and will not be MTU's next upset victim. Puck drops tonight at 6:30 and Saturday night at 7:30. Both games on FSN. Enjoy the weekend, everybody.