Gophers seek to smooth out offensive inconsistencies against MNSU

by Nate Gotlieb

MinnesotaâÄôs offensive quandary was on full display against Wisconsin in its most recent series two weekends ago. Senior Emily West, in the lineup for the first time since Oct. 2, helped the Gophers score seven goals in their victory over the No.1 Badgers on Friday night, the teamâÄôs highest single-game total of the season. A day later, that seven-goal blockbuster was overshadowed, as the offense disappeared in a 5-0 loss. After a bye week, the Gophers (6-5-0, 3-5-0 WCHA) hope to continue making progress in developing offensive consistency when they travel to Minnesota State this weekend. âÄúWe come off and on, kind of show up and donâÄôt show up during different periods,âÄù West said. âÄúI think coming out for a full 60 minutes is going to be our key for success.âÄù Traditionally a fast-starting team, the Gophers have 13 fewer goals at this point in the season than they did a year ago. In their six wins thus far theyâÄôve scored 24 goals but have produced only eight in their five losses. While the return of West adds a seasoned scorer to the lineup, coach Brad Frost is concerned with how much the Gophers have been relying on their freshmen to generate offense. Freshmen Amanda Kessel and Kelly Terry lead the team with 12 points apiece, and Sarah Davis is fourth with eight points. âÄúOur returners are the ones that need to step up and start putting the puck in the net for us,âÄù Frost said, âÄúI think they know that in order for our team to be successful, they need to be successful at scoring.âÄù West scored her first two goals of the season in the win over Wisconsin, but was scoreless in the series finale. West, who has only played four games this season, said sheâÄôs still adjusting to the game speed. âÄúIâÄôm close, IâÄôd say,âÄù West said. âÄúObviously, there are certain things that mentally and physically being out for that long, you canâÄôt say, âÄòOh I feel like normal.âÄô âÄù While the Gophers own a 38-3-3 all-time record against Minnesota State, a third of the way through the season, they sit five points and two places behind the fourth-place Mavericks in the WCHA standings. MSU has won four straight WCHA games, including two victories last weekend at then-No. 9 Ohio State. âÄúWe come in with the confidence that we should end up on top, but I donâÄôt think we sit back on it,âÄù West said. Kessel, who replaces West as the latest leading scorer sidelined by injury, is âÄúday-todayâÄù according to Frost. Kessel missed the second game of the Wisconsin series and did not travel with the U.S. WomenâÄôs Select Team to the Four Nations Cup last week month. Junior Alyssa Grogan, who started the season in a competition for playing time with sophomore Noora Raty, will miss the weekend due to an undisclosed injury. Grogan hasnâÄôt played since Oct. 16.