DeBus continues solid play in sweep

by Aaron Kirscht

His senior season has been well below expectations, but in recent weeks Gophers goaltender Steve DeBus has begun to make the best of a bad situation.
Against Wisconsin early this month, he limited the Badgers to one goal in 55 shots. In North Dakota two weekends ago, DeBus almost single-handedly kept Minnesota in both games. And this weekend he made goaltending look elementary, earning his second shutout in four games.
Alaska-Anchorage may be short on offensive talent and hesitant to charge the net, but DeBus said that doesn’t take away from the accomplishment.
“A shutout’s a shutout, no matter what,” he said. “It’s hard to stay in a game like this, not seeing a lot of shots. But I think the whole team deserves this one.”
DeBus now has six career shutouts, one short of the team record held by Jim Mattson (1952-55) and John Blue (1985-87), and his 51 wins tie him for fourth with Frank Pietrangelo (1982-86).
DeBus has played in 89 games and has an outside shot at the record of 98, held by 1988 Hobey Baker Award winner Robb Stauber. To match Stauber’s total, DeBus and the Gophers (14-18 overall, 10-14 in the WCHA) would have to advance to the semifinals of the WCHA Final Five, assuming their first-round playoff series goes the full three games.
Little more than a month ago, DeBus appeared in danger of losing his starting job to freshman upstart Erik Day, who looked solid in several starts. But since taking over between the posts full-time, DeBus has looked as good as ever. That’s led some observers to wonder whether he’s doing anything different.
“Not a whole lot,” DeBus said. “I haven’t really changed my approach to games any differently than I did at the beginning of the season. I think it just has more to do with the fact we’re playing better as a team.”
Despite their sub-.500 record, the Gophers have actually outscored their opponents this season, both in all games (108-103) and WCHA games (81-76). And DeBus’ performance of late has made the first half of the season seem like eons away.
“Even Christmas seems like a long time ago,” DeBus said. “Those were the dark times of Gopher hockey for us. Things have been so much better. I shouldn’t say it’s more fun to come to the rink, but we are enjoying it more.”
Kraft’s craft
Since returning from a hand injury in mid-January, senior co-captain Ryan Kraft has quietly continued to wiggle his way into the Minnesota record books.
Kraft has scored at least a point in his last 10 games, with five goals and 11 assists. He had a goal and an assist in the weekend sweep of Alaska-Anchorage, giving him 157 career points on 58 goals and 99 assists. The point total ties Kraft with the NHL Anaheim Mighty Ducks’ Mike Crowley, his former roommate, for 20th on the Gophers’ all-time list.
ù Scoring is down league-wide, as evidenced by junior forward Reggie Berg’s appearance atop the WCHA scoring list with only 30 points. At his current pace, Berg will finish with only 35 points, which would be the lowest total for a conference scoring champion since Minnesota’s Bill Klatt won with 30 points (in 22 games) in the 1967-68 season.
ù The Gophers have played with a full slate of 12 forwards and six defensemen only once — Feb. 15 at North Dakota — in the last 19 games.