Minnesota extends winless streak to three

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Jennifer Whalen

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After starting the season with a 12-game unbeaten streak, the Minnesota menâÄôs hockey team has a new record âÄî one that will likely cause them to drop off the perch of the national polls: Three games, zero wins. Minnesota (7-2-5 overall, 6-1-3 Western Collegiate Hockey Association) was upended 6-3 by Michigan on Friday night before coming back from two-goal deficits twice Saturday to tie Michigan State 4-4. âÄúItâÄôs one thing to be No. 1, but the hard part is to stay there,âÄù junior forward Ryan Stoa said following Friday nightâÄôs loss âÄî MinnesotaâÄôs worst loss in 73 games dating back to a 7-2 loss to North Dakota on Jan. 27, 2007. Patching together seven goals in a weekend was actually quite impressive considering the roster Minnesota scrounged together for the two games. Gophers coach Don Lucia initially mixed up the GophersâÄô lines prior to FridayâÄôs game, but early injuries to Taylor Matson, Mike Carman and Jay Barriball nixed that idea. âÄúIt was disappointing because I really like the way some of those lines looked in practice,âÄù Lucia said. âÄúRight away, five minutes in those lines are out the window.âÄù It only got worse when Stoa was ejected from the game six minutes into SaturdayâÄôs game with the Spartans. âÄúThatâÄôs the one guy we rely on heavily, not just for the scoring aspect but just the leadership aspect,âÄù freshman forward Nick Larson said. With three of MinnesotaâÄôs top five scorers out of the lineup, Larson and the younger Gophers provided the production. Joe Miller, Larson and Patrick White all scored their first goals of the season while senior Justin Bostrom notched his first two over the weekend. âÄúThatâÄôs what we had to have. There werenâÄôt a lot of goal scorers in the lineup tonight,âÄù Lucia said. Miller and LarsonâÄôs goals were also the first of their careers âÄî for Larson it was the first goal since the 2007 Minnesota state tournament. âÄúIt feels a lot longer than that,âÄù Larson said. âÄúHopefully a few more will come here.âÄù The offense had plenty of chances and the teamâÄôs production wouldâÄôve normally been enough to grind out a win with help from a normal outing by Alex Kangas . But the last three games have been anything but normal for the sophomore goaltender. Kangas has given up at least four goals in the past three games, dating back to a 4-0 loss at Denver on Nov. 22 âÄî the GophersâÄô first loss of the season. Kangas had only given up more than three goals twice in his career coming into the current skid. After giving up four goals on 15 shots Friday night, Lucia sat Kangas just more than four minutes into the second period âÄî the first benching of his young career. âÄúIt wasnâÄôt AlexâÄôs finest hour,âÄù Lucia said before commending freshman Kent PattersonâÄôs relief performance. âÄúIt was good to see Kent get in there and get some game time and I thought he played well.âÄù The move snapped KangasâÄô streak of 2,181 consecutive minutes in goal, which included 34 straight starts. Injury updates After SaturdayâÄôs game, Lucia said Carman, Barriball and Matson had all undergone MRI tests, and he was âÄúhopefulâÄù the two juniors would be back for the Colorado College series in two weeks. âÄúWeâÄôll probably have a better idea next week,âÄù Lucia said. But the upcoming off-weekend for Minnesota wonâÄôt help Matson, whose knee injury will likely keep him off the ice for the remainder of the year, Lucia said.