DeBus sharp, but rookie shines vs. BU

Michael Rand

Gophers hockey coach Doug Woog was tinkering with the idea of playing No. 1 goaltender Steve DeBus for the entire exhibition contest against Boston University on Saturday night.
The idea was to get the junior reacquainted with playing a full game before this weekend’s series against Colorado College. After all, DeBus is expected to handle the vast majority of Minnesota’s goaltending duties this season.
But after DeBus looked steady in the first two periods, saving 22 of 25 shots, Woog decided to let freshman Erik Day play the third period against Boston.
Judging by the results, it seems as if the coach made the right decision.
Day, the projected backup for DeBus, stopped 14 of the Terriers’ 15 shots in the period, rarely looking out of place. The Elk River, Minn., native, who played the last two seasons with Des Moines and Sioux City of the USHL, caught the eye of Woog and DeBus.
“To come in during the third period in a tight game, he looked really comfortable,” DeBus said. “I think he’s going to be a good goalie.
Smith shines in increased role
Although the Gophers as a team played inconsistently throughout the Boston University game, one constant was the vastly improved play of sophomore center Wyatt Smith.
The Warroad, Minn., native had just four goals and five assists in 32 games as a freshman, but could at least double those figures this year if he continues to play as he did Saturday night.
Woog summed it up: “He’s a different Wyatt Smith.”
One of the reasons opposing teams will be seeing more of Smith is that, quite simply, there is more of him — an additional 10 pounds, to be exact.
Smith is a bulked-up 200 pounds this season, which should help him dislodge a few extra loose pucks and deposit them in the net.
He didn’t score a goal against Boston University, but he centered the Gophers’ second line and had an assist on the team’s only even-strength goal of the game.
After sophomore center Reggie Berg recovers from an ankle injury and returns to the lineup — likely within the next couple of weeks — Smith will probably move down to center Minnesota’s third line.
Wherever he’s playing, Smith is determined to be a major contributor for the Gophers this season.
“I’m just going out there with a cocky attitude and playing my game,” he said.
Dark horses impress Woog
In addition to Day’s goaltending performance in the third period, Woog was also pleased with the performances of several other Gophers lesser-knowns.
In particular, the coach said he was impressed by freshmen Nate Miller and Cory Miller, sophomore Mike Lyons and junior Brent Godbout.
“Some of the more unheralded guys had more consistent nights than the others, and that’s good,” Woog said.
Get used to it
Even though it was just an exhibition game, Boston University coach Jack Parker said his team was keying on Gophers defenseman and Hobey Baker Award candidate Mike Crowley.
With Brian Bonin gone, Crowley is the focal point of Minnesota’s offense, particularly on the power play.
Crowley said he rarely noticed the extra attention he was drawing.
“I saw it a little bit on the power play. I couldn’t get many passes off,” he said. “But I didn’t really notice.”
Slap Shots
ù Minnesota allowed 40 shots on goal against Boston University. The Gophers did not allow more than 37 in a game last season.
ù The Gophers are ranked No. 5 in the USA Today/American Hockey Magazine poll released Monday.
Michigan, last season’s NCAA champion, is the top ranked team in the poll. Other WCHA teams in the top 10 are Colorado College (No. 6) and Denver (No. 7).
ù Northern Michigan and Michigan Tech split a two-game series this weekend. Those were the only teams involved in WCHA league play.