Gophers hockey hopes for scoring

by Josh Linehan

With the holiday break approaching, the Minnesota men’s hockey team has points at the top of its Christmas list.
After scoring only 12 goals in its past five games, coach Don Lucia might suit up Santa and his elves if he thought they could put the biscuit in the basket.
In fact, minus the 28 goals scored by Minnesota’s first line of John Pohl, Erik Westrum and Nate Miller, the Gophers have scored only 26 goals all year.
Lucia said his team will continue to play nothing but close games as long as Pohl, Westrum and Miller are its only offense.
“We only scored two goals, and we’re at home,” Lucia said after Saturday’s 2-2 tie with St. Cloud State. “We scored five on the weekend. You can put the one line together, but all of a sudden you’ve got all three of your offensive guys on one line.
“Until we have some other forwards emerge and start scoring goals for us, it’s going to be a struggle.”
Most of the Minnesota goals over the weekend came from odd-man rushes or outstanding individual efforts.
In contrast, St. Cloud scored at least three goals directly related to the traffic their forwards caused in front of Minnesota goaltender Adam Hauser.
If the young Minnesota team wants to jump-start its anemic offense, a few garbage goals wouldn’t hurt, sophomore defenseman Jordan Leopold said after Friday night’s overtime loss.
“I definitely feel that’s a key for us. They were getting people in front of the net and they were getting tap-in goals,” Leopold said. “The defensemen were getting the puck on net for our team, but no one was there to put the puck home.”
But creating chances in front of the net will be a daunting task for the Minnesota forwards, who are younger and smaller than most of the defensemen they face in a WCHA conference full of players imported from junior hockey.

The holiday break can’t come soon enough for a multitude of Minnesota players nursing injuries. Dave Spehar (mild head injury) joined defenseman Dylan Mills (groin) on the Gophers’ shelf last weekend, while Rico Pagel (sprained ankle) and Pat O’Leary (concussion) continue to nurse their respective injuries. The injury to Spehar left Minnesota with only 11 healthy forwards, one less than four full lines.

Josh Linehan covers men’s hockey and welcomes comments at [email protected]