Steve DeBus’ outburst after the Gophers 6-4 loss at North Dakota two weekends ago is well documented by now. After facing 51 shots, the Gophers goalie questioned his team’s attitude, desire and heart in a brief, profanity-laced tirade.
His words, spoken to several members of the media, found their way into a few articles. Eventually, one story made its way onto the wall in the Gophers locker room, with DeBus’ most provocative quotes emphasized by a blue highlighter.
Aside from plastering a sheet of paper to a dry-erase chalkboard, however, DeBus’ outburst didn’t seem to have much of an impact on his teammates.
Entering Saturday’s game against Minnesota-Duluth, the Gophers had gone 2-2 since DeBus made his comments — a pair of one-goal wins against current WCHA basement-dweller Northern Michigan sandwiched between four-goal losses to UND and UMD.
DeBus was still facing a slew of shots and the Gophers weren’t playing with much emotion.
A toned-down, but obviously frustrated version of the Gophers goalie addressed the problem once again after Friday night’s 8-4 loss to the Bulldogs. He called the game an embarrassing moment in Gophers history.
“We need to come out with intensity every period,” DeBus said. “We need to go back to simple hockey, and do what we need to do to win. Hopefully, tomorrow night we’ll come out all charged up.”
Finally, his plea was answered.
Several things stick out from Minnesota’s 7-1 win on Saturday: Ryan Kraft’s five points, the Gophers’ five power play goals and the tribute to past Minnesota greats in a 75th anniversary ceremony before the game.
But the most notable statistic, for a number of reasons, is the single tick mark next to UMD’s second period shot total.
DeBus was lonely during that period, but it wasn’t the same feeling he’s had in games past. Instead of feeling all alone as opposing players fired shot after shot on him, he was wondering if he would recognize the puck the next time he saw it.
He was so bored that he starting thinking about getting his first shutout of the season in the second period.
“The only action I was getting was skating to the bench for a sixth attacker,” DeBus said.
In the meantime, UMD goalie Brant Nicklin was busy with 18 Gophers shots on goal in the second period and 46 in all. After the game, he was singing a tune that should be familiar to DeBus.
“We just started taking too many penalties,” Nicklin said. “The way the game was going, I got very frustrated.”
Goalies generally don’t like long droughts when they don’t see any shots, but in Saturday’s instance, DeBus didn’t mind.
He saw only 21 shots in the entire game — and his shutout bid ended with less than two minutes left in the game — but he realized that his inactivity meant his message had gone from theory into implementation.
“Up in North Dakota, we needed a message sent,” DeBus said. “The Northern (Michigan) sweep was not the kind we needed. Hopefully, with tonight, everyone understands what we need to do.”
Gophers coach Doug Woog said Saturday’s win, unlike others the team has had this season, could establish consistency.
DeBus was cautious, but also optimistic, that Woog was right.
“You could see everyone playing hard for 60 minutes,” DeBus said. “The next step is how we play next Friday. If we play great on Friday, how do we play on Saturday?”