Minnesota’s offense looks for consistency

The Gophers look to make an NCAA tournament push in the last eight games of the season.

Sophomore forward Rem Pitlick skates with the puck on Saturday, Dec. 2 at 3M Arena at Mariucci.

Image by Ellen Schmidt, Daily File Photo

Sophomore forward Rem Pitlick skates with the puck on Saturday, Dec. 2 at 3M Arena at Mariucci.

by Drew Cove

After being one of the top five offenses in the country last year, the Gophers should have no trouble finding the net this season.

The team brought in a strong freshman class and returned scorers, but the Gophers have still struggled as of late.

No. 13 Minnesota (15-12-1, 6-9-1 Big Ten) faces off against No. 1 Notre Dame (19-4-1, 13-1-0 Big Ten) this weekend. The Gophers will look to boost their offense after numerous shakeups in an effort win more games in the last four series of the season.

“We’re going to have to play with some skill and be harder on pucks,” forward Casey Mittelstadt said. “One of the main things we’ve been struggling with was just getting some consistent offensive zone time.”

Last season, Minnesota scored 141 goals in 38 games, which averaged to 3.71 goals per game. This season, the Gophers have scored 75 goals in 28 games, averaging 2.68 goals per game.

Offensive production has been hard to come by for the Gophers this season. Even when the team has found the net, the consistency has still been lacking. Minnesota tried to get scoring going in Thursday’s game against Michigan State. The team tallied five goals, but then came back to score just two in the Saturday game.

Whether it’s on the power play or even strength, Minnesota hasn’t scored like they did last season, but they think that can change. 

Associate head coach Mike Guentzel said the power play and even strength scoring have to improve in order for the team to win. 

“I think depth in our lineup [helps us score],” Guentzel said. “[Jack] Ramsey shows up, [Darian] Romanko shows up, we get a goal here and there from our [defensemen]. It’s that depth you like to have throughout your lineup … you’d like to have [lines] two, three and four that have some significant value in the offensive end, too.”

Right now, for the Gophers, those lines are as fluid as they have been all season. Minnesota has toyed and tinkered with its lines and with eight games left in the regular season, the process continues to roll on. 

Forward Scott Reedy has been part of Minnesota’s most recognizable line this season. The ‘RPM’ line, named to reflect the first initial of the players’ last names, has been productive. Reedy, along with the team’s leading scorer Rem Pitlick and Mittelstadt make up the line. Even that line, which has produced much of the Gophers offense this season, may be changing.

“I definitely like playing with those guys,” Reedy said. “I’m not sure what the lines will be coming up this week, because we’ve got some guys out and I think our team has great chemistry as a whole, and we’ve just got to find who we’re playing with.”

In addition to the planned line changes, Minnesota has numerous members of the team out with illnesses from practice this week. Head coach Don Lucia was one notable absence from practice. Guentzel said the team trainers are currently the most important players, with the role of keeping bodies as healthy as possible.

“When we scored five goals, we felt pretty good about ourselves and then I look up [at the scoreboard] with three minutes left Saturday, it’s 1-1 again, so it’s day-to-day, period-to-period,” Guentzel said. “We’ve gotten goaltending, we’ve defended well and there are certain numbers that are trending the right way.”