Gophers have rough weekend in Denver

Minnesota came out of the weekend with just one point after a 1-1 tie Friday and a 4-1 loss Saturday.

.DENVER – Minnesota men’s hockey coach Don Lucia admitted he is “running out of answers” to the Gophers struggles this year.

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what: Men’s hockey
when: 7:07 p.m., Feb. 22
where: Mariucci Arena

For the third-straight weekend, Minnesota picked up a lone point toward the Western Collegiate Hockey Association standings after tying Denver 1-1 in overtime on Friday and losing 4-1 the next night.

“At some point you are what you are,” Lucia said. “The inability to score on the power play, the inability to score 5-on-5 – you don’t give yourself a chance to win.”

It didn’t help that the Pioneers (19-8-1, 13-6-1) broke a scoreless drought in Saturday’s game by scoring with less than a minute left in the first period and then adding a pair of goals within a three-minute span midway through the second.

“A couple quick goals in the second kind of took the wind out of our sails, so to speak,” senior forward Ben Gordon said. “That’s just a sign that we’re not a mentally tough team.”

Gordon added that going down 3-0 in the period didn’t give the team a reason to “fold up the tent.”

A goal by sophomore defenseman David Fischer brought the Gophers back to within two, but the revival was short-lived as Denver sophomore forward Brian Gifford tallied his first goal of the season – an empty-netter that sealed the deal for the Pioneers.

“I just looked at our team and we just didn’t seem to have that energy that is required for us to compete with a good team,” Lucia said.

Four goals given up on Saturday ties a second-half high for Minnesota (12-13-7, 6-11-5), which tied St. Cloud State 4-4 in overtime on Jan. 12.

Only two teams have scored more than that against the Gophers all season – Michigan and Denver both scored five.

The loss also snaps a streak of four-straight overtime contests for Minnesota, although the result is doubtfully one that the Gophers were looking for.

The struggle to pick up conference points this weekend, as well as the last three series, has dropped Minnesota to seventh in the WCHA although Gordon said he isn’t ready to quit yet.

“We’re not done yet. We’re not going to give up, I’m not going to give up,” Gordon said after the series. “I don’t think any of the 22 guys are going to give up, the coaching staff isn’t going to give up and hopefully our fans aren’t going to give up.”

Junior defenseman R.J. Anderson, who scored the Gophers lone goal Friday night, summed up what the Gophers need to do in the team’s final six games if Minnesota is going to salvage this year.

“Our season is riding on every shift basically because we’ve dug ourselves a pretty big hole,” Anderson said. “We have to play desperate every time we touch the ice.”

Hunting Gophers

Arguably no opposing player has had as much success against the Gophers this season as Denver freshman forward Tyler Bozak.

The Regina, Saskatchewan native picked up another three points (two goals and an assist) against the Gophers this weekend.

In four games versus Minnesota this season, Bozak has eight points (six goals, two assists) – he has just eight goals in the other 28 games he’s appeared in this year.

Bozak’s short-handed goal on Friday night was his fourth of the year – ranking him second in the nation while he is ranked second among WCHA freshman with 26 points.

Barriball out

Sophomore forward Jay Barriball suffered an ankle sprain in Friday night’s tie that sidelined him Saturday and will more than likely keep him out of the lineup against Wisconsin in two weeks.

Barriball, whose status was “doubtful” for the Badgers series according to team officials, was seen hobbling towards the locker room during Friday’s third period.

Saturday night saw the sophomore sporting a boot on his left leg.