Gophers Hockey Must Read
Gophers Hockey Must Read
If you haven't read Nate Wells piece on the Minnesota Golden Gophers puck possession last weekend, I offer you another opportunity to do so here. I'll give you the RD version here: the Gophers played pretty well, but didn't do a good job of getting opportunities from the high-value areas on the ice. Compared to some of the negative trends we've seen this year, I'll take playing pretty well in two games and splitting over playing well in one game and splitting.
We're all still waiting for everything to come together like it did that magical weekend I spent at deer camp, when the hockey team swept Notre Dame and the Football team pantsed Iowa. You remember. It was the weekend where we all be like
So now Minnesota faces off in Big Ten play against the Michigan Wolverines, whom I hate. The Wolverines have posted a 10-7 record (2-1 in conference) won eight of their last ten games, including a 2-1 win over #5 Michigan Tech in the Great Lakes Invitational. That win was the highlight of their season so far. They hadn't had much luck against raked teams through the first half of the year.
The Wolverines have some talent on offense and have the ability to score a bunch of goals if they get hot, and a solid young goaltender in Zach Nagelvoort. But this isn't about them. This is about the Gophers.
The Three Keys to Victory
As always, stay out of the MF'ing penalty box. When a team has a tendency to throw up eight goals in a game, you know they've capitalized on the power play. In their 8-3 demolition of Ohio State, the Wolverines were 4 for 5 on the advantage. So play fast, and don't get goaded into stupid penalties.
Secondly, repeat last weekend's puck possession offense. Look at Wells' article. Minnesota put up very impressive possession and shot attempt numbers, they just didn't score on enough of them. Lots of attempted shots is not necessarily an indicator of a good team, but when you know you have a talented team, it's a nice stat to see.
Finally, take Nate Wells' advice and get some opportunities from down low. It's a simple matter of geometry. When shots are coming from a long ways out, it draws the goaltender out to the top of the crease, expanding his silhouette to cover more of the net than when he's forced down on his goal line. Puck movement far away from the net also allows a goaltender extra time to adjust to the movement and cover gaps. Conversely, forcing the puck down low reduces a goaltender's effective size and his ability to adjust to movement.
Establishing a forecheck low in the offensive zone is not easy, it take a lot of effort, and the forwards must be willing to battle against defenders to win the prime real estate. Most teams will be happy if their opponent is willing to sit between the top of the circle and the blue line and lob long shots at the net. It's a low-intensity offensive strategy.
For the Gophers to be successful in Ann Arbor this weekend, they'll need to turn up the heat.