Redshirt freshman saves the Day in goal for Gophers vs. Pioneers

Aaron Kirscht

On first glance, it just looks … strange.
Gophers goaltender Erik Day’s make-like-a-statue habit when the puck is out of play brings to mind the royal guards at Buckingham Palace in London — staring straight ahead, unfazed by the surroundings.
But when Day is on duty, he stands guard over the Gophers’ net, and he has done so with pleasantly surprising success recently. In his last two starts, on consecutive Saturdays, Day is 2-0.
“I just try to keep my mind off the game, but on the game,” Day said of his dead-still stance in goal. “It’s kind of an in-between thing, thinking but not thinking. I’m not really staring at anything, just looking around and trying to stay focused.”
Day got the start on Saturday after senior Steve DeBus struggled on Friday, giving up two goals in the first six minutes and two in the last four.
DeBus is in the thick of the worst stretch of his career. He is 6-13 overall, with a goals-against average well over three. If Day continues to play well, he could steal DeBus’ spot in the crease out from under him.
But Gophers coach Doug Woog said any talk of a pending “quarterback controversy” is premature. Giving the redshirt freshman more time in goal is based on only two things: trying to win some games and getting Day ready for next year.
“He deserves to play right now,” Woog said. “But if he can dominate, he’ll be the guy. If he plays like that, the other guy will have to play better or we’ll have to make some decisions.”
Woog was non-committal on the subject, and Day didn’t say he expected to start on Friday against Minnesota-Duluth. But both left the door open for the possibility.
“It’s hard to say,” Day said. “I usually don’t know what’s going to happen until maybe a day or two before the game. We’ll see how the week goes.”
Woog said the Gophers are badly in need of something to rally around, and if that something happens to be a new guy in goal, so be it. Day’s performances of late are earning him the trust of his teammates, something Woog said helps generate some chemistry.
“If you’re in a losing streak like we are,” Woog said, “you need to find something that’s consistent, that you can get going on. A lot of guys haven’t played with Erik and they don’t know what he can do, but if he can keep playing well, he can generate some things for us.”
Rare, but well done
Freshman Stuart Senden got the first goal of his career in Saturday’s game.
Well, sort of.
Actually, that goal should be credited to Denver’s Mike Dairon, who, while apparently trying to clear the puck behind the net late in the second period, made what looked like a great move on Pioneers goalie Steve Wagner and put the Gophers up 2-1.
“I turned around to Coach Woog and told him, ‘I’ve never seen anything like that in my life,'” the Gophers’ Mike Anderson said. “That guy deked out his own goalie. He really did. I haven’t seen it on TV, but it looked blatant. This wasn’t a rebound or something — he went forehand, backhand and into the net.”
Because Senden was the last Gophers player to touch the puck, he was credited with the goal. The Alexandria, Minn., native didn’t even know the goal was his until he heard it announced over the public address system.
“They always say the first one is the hardest one,” Senden said, laughing. “So maybe this will get things rolling.”