Goalie rotation debate rages on as Gophers host Denver

Brian Deutsch

When asked how many goalies he planned on using for this weekend’s men’s hockey series, Coach Don Lucia would only say the following:

MEN’S HOCKEY PREVIEW

WHERE: Mariucci Arena
WHEN: 7:07 p.m., tonight and 2:07 p.m. Sunday
TV: Fox Sports Net North
RADIO: WCCO 830 AM

Minnesota leads the all-time series 90-59-11

“One each night.”

A week after the team’s best two games thus far in the season, the Gophers will return to the ice – hosting two games against Western Collegiate Hockey Association opponent Denver.

Game one is scheduled for a 7:07 p.m. start on Friday, while the University’s homecoming celebrations have pushed the series finale back to 2:07 p.m. on Sunday. Both games are at Mariucci Arena.

After completing a sweep over Ohio State last weekend, thanks largely to two outstanding performances in between the pipes, Lucia said he felt any questions about the team’s goaltending had been laid to rest.

But then again maybe it stirred up some new ones.

Although a controversy in the crease is far from anyone’s thoughts at this early stage of the season, there is a question regarding the best means of rotation when it comes to goalies.

Junior Jeff Frazee is used to splitting starts with another netminder. He’s been doing it since his freshman year when Frazee and Kellen Briggs both saw time in goal.

But just because Frazee is used to it doesn’t mean he has to like it.

MINNESOTA

(4-2-0 overall, 0-2-0 WCHA) National Ranking: 8

MINNESOTA STAT
Senior forward Ben Gordon and senior defenseman Derek Peltier both have five points all-time against Denver. The remaining 20 Gophers skaters have just 10 combined points against this weekend’s foe.

PLAYERS TO WATCH
Freshman defenseman Cade Fairchild: Opposing teams haven’t scored an even-strength goal this season when Fairchild is on the ice. He also leads Minnesota freshmen in points scored with one goal and an assist.
Junior forward Blake Wheeler: Wheeler had recorded a point in each of Minnesota’s first five games before being kept off the score sheet last Friday. He chalked up two assists the next day to make up for it.

“I don’t like (splitting time), I’d rather play both games,” he said Wednesday before goalie drills. “It gets your consistency up and you start to get a rhythm.”

Frazee was the team’s top netminder coming into the season, and he’s carried the majority of the load thus far – appearing in five of the Gophers first six games.

Then came last Friday when freshman Alex Kangas allowed just one goal and brought the assembled crowd at Mariucci Arena to its knees in a 2-1 win over the Buckeyes.

Kangas was supposed to see “substantial” playing time this season, but right now he’s just happy to be here.

“I’m just trying to come out and work hard in practice every day and hopefully get another opportunity to play soon,” Kangas said.

Denver

(4-2-0, 1-1-0 WCHA) National Ranking: 7

DENVER STAT
Last season, the Pioneers ended Minnesota’s 21-game winning streak with a 1-0 victory at Mariucci Arena. At the time, the Gophers were the top ranked team in the country while Denver was ranked fourth.

PLAYERS TO WATCH
Sophomore forward Brock Trotter: His five points are tied for most on the team this season. Trotter is currently Denver’s career scoring leader with 50 points (22 goals and 28 assists) in 51 games.
Senior goaltender Peter Mannino: Mannino holds a .922 save percentage and has allowed one goal or less in each of the Pioneers’ four wins. He also recorded his 10th career shut out earlier this year against Maine.

According to Kangas, this isn’t the first time the duo has competed for ice time.

“I’ve been on Jeff’s teams for a long time now, we played when we were little in the summer together on the same teams,” Kangas said. “We’ve known each other for a long time and we’ve been battling each other for a long time too.”

Lucia did say Frazee will start Friday night and the extra day in between games will allow the team time to decide who is in net Sunday.

“I like the idea of playing good goalies; it doesn’t matter if it’s one or two,” Lucia said. “In this day and age, you can’t win without quality goaltending, and that’s probably been the strength of our team so far.”