Freshman performs at legendary level

Michael Rand

Steve DeBus said he has no idea who Wally Pipp is.
And Gophers hockey coach Doug Woog said that DeBus, the team’s starting goalie, does not need to worry about why Pipp’s name is important in the context of sports history.
For those who don’t know, Pipp was the regular starting first baseman for the New York Yankees before being substituted for one day by Lou Gehrig. That was the first in a series of 2,130 consecutive games played by Gehrig, who is now enshrined in baseball’s Hall of Fame. The only time Pipp’s name is mentioned anymore is in connection with Gehrig.
Even though Woog quelled any potential goaltending controversy after Sunday’s game between Minnesota and Michigan Tech by affirming DeBus’ status as the No. 1 goalie, freshman Erik Day did a superb impression of Gehrig this weekend.
In his first two starts as a Gopher, Day posted consecutive 3-0 shutouts of the Huskies this weekend. He became the first Minnesota goalie in eight years to shut out the same team on consecutive nights. In doing so, Day handed Michigan Tech its first back-to-back shutouts since Jan. 29-30, 1954 against North Dakota.
Not a bad way to start a career.
Although Woog said he will not consider rotating DeBus — who was unable to play this weekend because of inflammation in his left shoulder — and Day, he was glad to see the development of a capable No. 2 goalie.
Woog said he considered starting freshman Willie Marvin in Sunday’s game after Day’s shutout on Saturday.
“It’s better to get a second guy ready than to worry about a third man,” he said. “That was really what the decision came down to.”
Woog said one thing he noticed was that Gophers players were comfortable with Day in the net.
“The guys didn’t play jittery, and that shows some confidence in Erik,” he said. “If you’re playing with a goaltender that you’re not really comfortable with, it may show once the game starts.”
Gophers defenseman Brian LaFleur reinforced Woog’s comments.
“It’s a big pick-up for us,” he said. “If something happens to Steve again, we know we have someone we can count on.”
As for “Gehrig Jr.,” he was just happy to have an opportunity to offer something other than moral support to the team.
“I’ll just hopefully keep playing well and keep playing,” Day said. “I think it was important that at least I’m in the back of (the coaches’) minds. If something happens, I’m capable of playing.”
Of course, the Gophers defense didn’t make things too difficult on the Elk River native, particularly on Saturday, when the team yielded just 11 shots on goal.
Day had to make just one save in the second period of the series opener, and didn’t have to handle a difficult chance until the game’s final minutes.
“I expected this type of game,” he said. “Knowing it was my first game, I think the guys wanted to take a little pressure off of me.”
Day’s outing on Sunday was a little less relaxing, as he had to turn away 26 shots for the shutout that time.
“It was kind of nice to see some rubber, now that I think back on it,” he said.
After his second shutout, Day said he wasn’t thinking about blanking the Huskies in either game. But some of his teammates were.
“You don’t say anything about it because you might jinx it,” LaFleur said.
Most observers agreed, however, that the shutouts had nothing to do with luck.