Even-strength goals hold key to men’s hockey team’s success

Adam Fink

Minnesota’s men’s hockey coach Don Lucia emerged from the visitors’ locker room last Saturday and started listing some things that surprised him during the Gophers’ 7-4 win over Minnesota State, Mankato.

One of the first things he mentioned was Minnesota’s improved five-on-five play.

Four of the Gophers’ goals came with both teams at full strength. On Friday, Minnesota scored both of its goals with the man advantage in a 3-2 loss.

This is an encouraging sign for Minnesota (5-2-2, 2-1-1 WCHA), which has struggled with its even-strength scoring over the past three weeks.

Excluding the 12-1 blowout against Alabama-Huntsville, only nine of the Gophers’ past 21 goals have come with each team skating five players.

In four out of Minnesota’s five victories, the Gophers have recorded more even strength scores than power-play goals (21-14).

In the other four games (two losses and two ties), Minnesota has recorded a total of three five-on-five goals out of a total of 11 scores.

“It’s always nice and something we talk about doing,” Lucia said. “In this league, you need to get scoring with equal numbers on the ice.”

While this fact is stressed each week to the players, it finally appeared to pay off in the box score.

As a match-up with conference-leading Colorado College (8-1-1, 5-0-1) looms this weekend, the Gophers attribute their improved even-strength play to repetition.

“What I thought really helped us was we felt more confident running the sets,” freshman Gino Guyer said. “We know we need to score with all of our guys on the ice. I thought being more comfortable led to more quality shots on goal.”

While Minnesota’s power-play unit has come to the rescue by recording goals 29.9 percent of the time, Lucia has told his team not to count on it.

“You can’t rely on your special teams all the time,” Guyer said. “That’s just a fact.”

As the Tigers come to Mariucci Arena for a showdown of nationally ranked teams, the injury-riddled and young Gophers believe their scoring with even numbers is improving.

Reinholz likely out

sophomore Jerrid Reinholz, who had successful jaw surgery Saturday, is likely out for this weekend’s series with Colorado College.

Reinholz suffered a fractured jaw during Minnesota’s 4-2 win over Alabama-Huntsville on Nov. 2.

The transfer from Minnesota-Duluth was expected to be ready for the series, but Lucia said his return will probably come Nov. 22 against Michigan Tech.

“There’s about a 1 percent chance he will play this weekend,” Lucia said. “And that’s being optimistic. He needs a full week of practice before he sees game action.”

Reinholz had three assists, while playing in five games this season.

Preissing honored

colorado College defenseman Tom Preissing was named the WCHA Defensive Player of the Week for Nov. 11. Preissing also earned the honor on Oct. 21.

Preissing excelled at both ends of the ice and keyed a strong team defensive effort that limited visiting Alaska Anchorage to just 38 shots on goal in a pair of conference victories last weekend,

Gophers fall in poll

minnesota is ranked sixth in this week’s USCHO.com poll. The Gophers were ranked fourth last week before splitting with Minnesota State, Mankato.

Boston College is ranked No. 1 while the Gophers’ opponent this week, Colorado College, is ranked eighth.

Adam Fink covers men’s hockey and welcomes comments at [email protected]