Seniors carry the load in

Tim Nichols

DULUTH, MINN. — Of the 14 goals scored this weekend by the Gophers men’s hockey team, 11 were netted by seniors.
Not bad for a crew that’s struggled for most of the season.
“I think (the seniors are peaking),” senior defenseman Bill Kohn said. “I think since we had our meeting three weeks ago, it’s been fun playing.”
Kohn scored two goals during Saturday’s 10-7 Gophers’ victory, after coming into the game with only one goal all season.
Senior Reggie Berg exploded on Saturday, scoring four goals. The only other time he scored four goals in a game was the final regular season game of his USHL career when he scored four against the Green Bay Gamblers.
“I don’t want to say anything to jinx ourselves,” Berg said. “But 14 goals in two games is a quite a bit for this team. I don’t know the last time we had that many goals for a weekend.”
Minnesota would be hard pressed to find any other time when they had an equally prolific showing. After Friday’s contest, it looked like wide-open hockey was a thing of the past.
The 4-1 win on Friday was much more of a knock-down, drag-out affair. But one Gopher shined despite the penalties and the frustrations — senior Wyatt Smith.
He scored a pure hat trick in the game, scoring three straight goals to open the scoring. He’s the first Gopher to notch a pure hat trick since Ryan Kraft in 1994.
Smith was happy that the team scored four goals, but as for the team’s performance, he demanded more.
“Personally, I’m not happy with our performance,” Smith said. “We kind of played to their level a little bit, not to take anything away from them. Hopefully tomorrow, we’ll get away from the wrestling matches in the third and come out to play a great hockey game.”
The wrestling matches were exchanged for free-flowing hockey on Saturday, which sat just well with the seniors. Along with Berg’s four goals and Kohn’s two, Smith chipped in another goal and Mike Anderson netted his eighth of the year.
This isn’t a bad time for the Gophers seniors to find their scoring touches, especially with the WCHA playoffs starting in two weeks.
“We didn’t panic, didn’t quit, and made more good hockey plays than we did in a long time,” coach Doug Woog said. “It was a night when we felt the pressure from needing a win. You can see in the first shift that they played with a lot more spank tonight.”
Regardless of how much, ahem, “spank” the Gophers played with, one thing was for sure — the seniors came to play.
They realized that their collegiate, and perhaps their competitive hockey careers will come to an end very shortly.
“It’s a matter of playing together and a full game,” Kohn said after Saturday’s win. “We came for two points and that’s all that matters.”