U feeling fine after Sioux sweep

Tim Nichols

Following No. 1 North Dakota’s Saturday 6-5 victory over Minnesota, senior captain Wyatt Smith was found sitting on a bench in the hallway outside of the Gophers’ locker room.
But instead of sulking or looking disappointed, he had a slight smile on his face and an aura of contentment around him.
He looked like a blonde-haired Buddha in hockey pads — happy with himself and with the world.
“We played well,” Smith said. “Maybe I’m a little too optimistic. We’ve been playing to the level of our opponents.”
Smith has been one of the Gophers’ harshest critics, ripping the team after — and during — games where they preformed unacceptably in his eyes.
But this kinder, gentler Smith comes off the heels of one of the more disappointing losses for Minnesota — not because the team played particularly bad, but because this was a series the Gophers could have swept with a little extra luck.
“(Smith’s demeanor after the game) is kind of realistic,” coach Doug Woog said. “It’s a good approach. We were in someone else’s building, we knew the home crowd would be a factor, which it was. They played really well, much stronger.”
The captain from Warroad, Minn., has seemingly tried to carry the team on his back in recent weeks.
He ripped the team in the locker room between the second and third period of Minnesota’s 6-6 tie against Minnesota State last week. Since that speech, Smith has had two goals and two assists.
He leads the team with 15 goals and 16 assists for a total of 31 points.
But the only points Smith really cares about are those in the WCHA standings. And the 10-game winless streak really doesn’t faze Smith all that much.
“It’s a little shady because we haven’t been losing that many games (the Gophers have gone 0-6-4 in their last 10),” Smith said. “Last year we lost nine straight. Our team is getting better. This by no means is a moral victory; it still hurts. But we’re playing better.”

This week’s All-American
Over the last several weekends, the Gophers have been making All-American candidates out of members of the opposition.
This weekend’s candidate isn’t only an All-American contender, but also a viable Hobey Baker candidate.
Sophomore Jeff Panzer lit up the Gophers over the weekend for five goals and two assists. He scored four of his goals in Friday’s 5-4 win, and he notched the game winner in the 6-5 Saturday win.
“(Friday) I had pretty good jump,” Panzer said. “I used some speed on the first goal. On the fourth I used my speed and found an opening, and I got a little lucky.”
The sophomore from Grand Forks, N.D., has been on a tear this season, with 12 goals and 20 assists.
Playing on a line with perennial stars Jay Panzer and Jessie Bull doesn’t hurt either.
“We somehow found a way to muster up goals,” Panzer said. “That’s the kind of character our team has; that’s what we pride ourselves on.”

Slap shots
ù The power play proved to be a factor for the Gophers once again as Minnesota struggled with the man advantage, going 2-for-11.
ù The status of sophomore defenseman Dylan Mills, who suffered a broken rib in Friday’s loss to the Sioux, is still unknown. He skated with the team on Monday and will be fitted for a flak jacket. His status for this weekend’s series against Michigan Tech will be made on Thursday.