Five for ’15: Back to Border Battle

Ben Gotz

Senior defenseman Ben Marshall said after the Gophers got swept in the North Star College Cup they would need to forget the whole tournament.

After a few days to reflect on the tournament, he provided an update on how that was going.

"Good. It’s Wednesday," Marshall said. "Couple good days of practice. The point of that is just, we’ve still got some business, we need to get on track here and if we dwell on the past it’s probably not going to help us play well against Wisconsin this weekend so yeah, forget about that and worry about Friday night."

Last weekend was an opportunity for the Gophers to vault themselves back up the rankings with two opponents ranked in college hockey's top 10, but they came short both times. Instead, they now find themselves out of the national rankings, and at the bottom of college hockey in Minnesota.

"Every year you want to be the No. 1 team in the state for sure, and this year our record does not show that," junior defenseman Brady Skjei said. "Definitely hurts a little bit."

Here are four other notes with quotes from the Minnesota men's hockey team this week, as they prepare to move forward and face the Wisconsin Badgers in Madison.

2. Three Goals May Be Magic Number

Lucia said one stat about his team stands out.

When they score three goals or more, the Gophers are 11-2-1. When the team scores two or less, it's 0-7-1. It's a pretty simple formula, but the Gophers struggles and inconsistency on offense have made that magic number hard to reach at times.

"I’ve said it, it seems like we either get four or five or we get one or two," Lucia said, while also adding the team's defense hasn't always picked up the slack either. "The other thing is we haven’t been as tight at times defensively. It’s still okay to win a 2-1 game too and we haven’t been able to win a 2-1 game yet this year."

3. Power Play Losing Energy

When the Gophers left for break, they were the No. 1 ranked power play in the nation, scoring on 17 of their 54 opportunities.

They haven't lost that status since returning from break, but they're close after only scoring on five of their 32 power play opportunities in the last eight games.

And the dip in power play production has taken a toll on the Gophers offense. The team has struggled to create scoring chances five-on-five and without extra offense from special teams the Gophers have not fared well as a team. On the season, the Gophers are 1-6-1 without a power-play goal.

"You can win some games on a specialty goal or strong specialty teams but you’ve still got to score five-on-five," Lucia said.

4. Puck Luck?

Junior defenseman Brady Skjei said the Gophers have made critical mistakes this season, but there have also been times where the puck just does not bounce their way.

"It just seems like a couple bounces that are just like “come on” made us lose some games so we need to stop making mistakes," Skjei said. "The mental mistakes are hurting us right now and we need to limit those for sure."

But senior captain Kyle Rau said puck luck is not an excuse for the team's recent struggles.

"You can’t say it’s that," Rau said. "Puck luck comes with working hard and when you’ve got the puck a lot it seems like you get more puck luck so that’s something we’ve to focus on."

5. Avenge the Sweep

Last year in Madison, the Gophers were swept in the Kohl Center.

If the team wants to climb back up the PairWise Rankings and earn a trip to the NCAA tournament, the Gophers are going to have to avenge those losses this weekend.

"You expect both teams to try to get back on track here this weekend," Skjei said.

The situation is similar to when the teams play at Mariucci Arena just two weeks ago, with the Gophers picking up a win and a shootout loss to the Badgers, with a brawl coming in at the end of the final game.

"Two weeks ago was probably a good glimpse of what we’re going to see this weekend," Marshall said. "It’s a good rival and you know, they’re in the same situation, somewhat, the same situation as us. Honestly it doesn’t matter how they’re doing throughout the year. When you play Wisconsin-Minnesota it’s going to be a good battle."