The Gophers men’s hockey team might want to hire a witch doctor to exorcise the evil spirits lurking in the locker room, because there might very well be some voodoo messing with Minnesota.
It started with the Gophers’ Matt Leimbek smashing into Stuart Senden before Friday’s game in St. Cloud. When Huskies players are introduced at the National Hockey Center, the lights are shut off and spotlights swirl around the arena. It can be difficult for the visitors to see much more than spots in their eyes.
“There should be a law against no lights on during the skate-around,” Gophers coach Doug Woog said. “(Senden’s) got a high ankle sprain.”
Not only did Minnesota lose Senden, but sophomore forward Aaron Miskovich — who had a goal and an assist on Friday — also left the game early and was inactive on Saturday with a bad shoulder.
The hard-luck injuries forced Woog to put rarely used defenseman Brad Timmons in the fourth-line forward position.
“(Timmons) was wonderful. He did a wonderful job,” Woog said. “The lesser lines gave us momentum and production, but they don’t score very much. In the end, our No. 1 guys didn’t score a 5-on-5 goal.”
Minnesota outshot the Huskies in both games, but could not put the puck in the net.
This has been a problem that’s plagued Minnesota for most of the season. Of the Gophers’ 24 losses and ties, 15 occurred when they outshot their opponent.
“We’ve got to keep creating chances to put the puck in the net,” junior Dave Spehar said. “It’s frustrating for me; I had chances to put the puck in the net and I couldn’t do it.”
A Gophers carol
One of the members of the coaching staff who takes losses a little harder than most is associate head coach Mike Guentzel.
After the Gophers’ 4-4 tie to St. Cloud State on Friday, in which Minnesota gave up three straight goals in the third period, Guentzel was a little confused as to which day it was.
“When’s Christmas? When’s Christmas?” Guentzel said. “Oh, it must be Feb. 19 (the date of the Gophers’ 4-4 tie).”
Woulda, coulda, shoulda
With all the Gophers’ struggles this year, they could still host a first-round series for the WCHA playoffs. Here are the scenarios.
In order for the Gophers to overtake third-place Alaska-Anchorage, Colorado College must sweep the Seawolves and Minnesota must at least split its last four games. But if the Tigers and Alaska-Anchorage split their series this weekend, the Gophers only need to win three out of their last four games to overtake the Seawolves.
For the Gophers to jump ahead of fifth-place Wisconsin, Minnesota must be within three points of Wisconsin after the Gophers play Minnesota-Duluth this weekend. If that happens, Minnesota must sweep the Badgers to leap ahead. But if the Gophers tie or pass Wisconsin this weekend, they would only need to split their final series to leap ahead of the Badgers.
The hardest team to overtake might be Denver, which holds all the tie-break advantages over the Gophers. If the Pioneers split their next four games, Minnesota has to win its final four games to overtake Denver.
When the Gophers tied their eighth game of the season Saturday, they tied the program’s all-time record for ties in a season. Minnesota’s 1992-1993 team went 23-12-8 overall.