U hockey inconsistent in loss to BU

Michael Rand

Less than a week ago, Gophers hockey coach Doug Woog preached a high level of consistency as the key to his team’s success this season.
What Woog got in the Gophers’ 4-3 exhibition loss to Boston University on Saturday night at the Target Center was a performance that would have put Dr. Jekyll to shame.
Minnesota looked like a mediocre-to-bad WCHA team during the first period, allowing BU several close-range scoring chances. The Terriers capitalized by scoring three goals in a span of about 8 minutes during the middle of the period.
The Gophers caught a break late in the period when Erik Rasmussen’s clearing attempt took a funny carom off the boards and led Ryan Kraft for a short-handed breakaway goal.
Thus began Minnesota’s transformation — temporarily anyway — from dormancy to dominance. The Gophers controlled the second period, scoring twice in the first seven minutes. The score remained 3-3 at the end of two periods.
Then the elixir wore off and Minnesota once again looked very ordinary. The Terriers outshot the Gophers 15-7 in the final period and scored the winning goal with less than seven minutes to play.
Part of the Gophers’ inconsistent play can be written off as nothing more than pre-game jitters. It was, after all, Minnesota’s first game of the year.
And even though it was an exhibition game, 17,471 fans at Target Center — the largest crowd ever to watch college hockey in the state of Minnesota — demonstrated that the contest was more than just a glorified scrimmage.
Wyatt Smith, a sophomore who assisted on Minnesota’s second goal, said he and many other players were nervous before the game.
“Last year, I remember my first game — I wasn’t nervous at all,” he said. “Tonight, I was scared for some reason. I’ve never been nervous before in my life.”
Gophers co-captain Mike Crowley added, “There were a lot of jitters out there — not just the younger guys but the older guys.”
But pre-game butterflies can’t account for all of Minnesota’s mistakes, particularly those that occurred in a sloppy third period.
A good share of the blame fell on the shoulders of the team’s defense, which was a question mark going into the game. Three hours and several odd-man rushes later, the defense remained a soft spot.
“I thought our vulnerability was most obvious on defense,” Woog said.
The Gophers did take some positives from the game. Despite playing two mediocre periods, they were in a position to defeat BU, a team that has been to hockey’s final four each of the past four seasons.
Minnesota also found out that its second line — which groups senior Nick Checco with Smith and Mike Anderson — can generate scoring chances. The line accounted for the Gophers’ only even-strength goal, and Woog said Smith had the team’s top performance of the night.
Anderson and Smith combined for just seven goals as freshmen last season but will be called upon to score more this season.
It won’t be a desperate week of practice for the Gophers as they prepare for next weekend’s opening series at Mariucci Arena against Colorado College.
There will, however, be plenty of things to work on.
SATURDAY’S SUMMARYBoston University 3 0 1 — 4Gophers 1 2 0 — 3

First Period: BU — Drury (Poti, Rownin), 7:10. BU — Wright (Bates), SHG 9:04. BU — Drury (unassisted), 15:20. Min — Kraft (Rasmussen) SHG, 19:46.
Second Period: Min — Hankinson (Smith, LaFleur), PPG 3:25. Min — Kohn (Anderson, Checco), 7:00.
Third Period: BU — Wright (Coleman), 13:16.