Sophomore class answers challenge

by Chris Lempesis

At the conclusion of last weekend’s series with Duluth, Minnesota’s men’s hockey coach Don Lucia was not shy about his displeasure with the play of his six sophomore forwards through the first eight games of the season.

Through the series with Duluth, the group had just two goals.

“That’s killing us,” Lucia said after the Gophers’ 4-3 loss to the Bulldogs. “That’s really hurting. Those guys, they have to… take a jump. They’re sophomores. They played last year and they gotta bring something to the table.”

Apparently the group heard Lucia’s call loud and clear as they brought it this weekend against Alaska-Anchorage.

Five of the six sophomores (forward Tom Pohl didn’t see any action) combined to score six goals in the Gophers’ two-game sweep. They added six assists for a total of 12 points.

“Us sophomores had a little bit of a tough week at practice,” said Evan Kaufmann, who scored the game-winner Saturday and also had two assists in the series. “Coach kind of singled us out at practice.”

Although Lucia might have targeted the group, forward Ben Gordon said they didn’t take any of it personally.

“When somebody comes down on you like that, it’s just extra incentive,” Gordon said. “Nothing against coach ” but you’re like, “I want to prove him wrong.’ We want to prove him wrong and show him that we can live up to expectations and I think we’re starting to do that here.”

Gordon definitely showed some promise this weekend.

After putting up just nine points and no goals in 28 career games coming into the weekend, Gordon had two goals and two assists in the series.

Gordon and Kaufmann were not the only sophomores with strong showings, however.

Mike Howe (two goals), Brent Borgen (a goal and an assist) and Kris Chucko (assist) all contributed.

Gordon said the sophomores will have to keep performing like they did this weekend for the Gophers to experience continued success.

And while it’s unknown whether the group will be able to turn out another weekend like the one against the Seawolves, one thing’s for sure: Lucia was certainly more pleased.

“Some of those sophomores that had been struggling to score, scored for us,” Lucia said. “And I think that’s a real positive for us.”