Third period is not a friend to the Gophers

Minnesota has scored 18 third-period goals while giving up 36 this season.

Nick Gerhardt

>Madison, Wis. – The finish line is in sight during each game for the Minnesota men’s hockey team, but getting there with everything intact has become quite difficult.

After their 2-2 tie Saturday against Wisconsin, the Gophers stood at 3-3-4 in their last 10 games, but six of those games could have gone much differently.

Six times, teams have come from behind to either win or tie Minnesota.

In this case, the Badgers spoiled a win for the Gophers when they scored a goal at 12:36 in the third period Saturday night.

It’s no secret that the Gophers have struggled lately in the third period, but what was particularly interesting is how they performed in this game compared to others.

“A lot of times early on in the year it was because of lack of effort and lack of confidence and lack of intensity, but tonight it wasn’t that,” senior Ben Gordon said.

The Gophers held a 32 to 26 shot advantage over Wisconsin, but couldn’t get a goal when they needed it in the third.

“Our third period woes continue,” Gordon said. “We’re having trouble scoring goals right now, but as you can see we had tons of chances. They’re going to start going in sooner or later.”

Minnesota has scored just 18 third-period goals while allowing 36 goals in the third, easily the most in the conference.

Coach Don Lucia agrees with Gordon that the team not scoring goals is the most pressing concern, rather than their performance in the final period.

“It’s just the inability to score when we have chances more than anything else,” Lucia said. “If you look at the shots on goal, we’re outshooting our opponent in the third period, but we just can’t get that goal.”

The Gophers outplayed the Badgers the majority of Saturday’s game but cannot find a way to put the puck in the net.

Against Wisconsin they tried crashing the net, driving to the goal, one-timers from the point, and screening junior goalie Shane Connelly. None of it worked out very well, not even luck was on their side.

“Unlike some of them where we let up in the third period, we played hard all night,” sophomore Mike Carman said. “There’s nothing you can do about that last goal. It was a lucky bounce for them.”

The second Wisconsin goal came in a flash when Patrick Johnson unleashed a shot from the blue line that deflected off a stick and past freshman goalie Alex Kangas to tie the game.

It was the second point of the game for Johnson and one that sent the Gophers home pining for more points out of the weekend.

“For the most part we played pretty well this weekend and to come out of here with one point only, it’s not real exciting,” Gordon said. “I can’t explain how many times we’ve had it in our hands this year and lost.”

With 10 regular season games remaining, Minnesota can no longer afford lost opportunities to gain points in the standings.