Two wins in a row is a chore

For three straight weeks, the Gophers have lost or tied the first game of a series.

Noah Seligman

After being knocked down in the first game of a series, Minnesota’s women’s hockey team has responded with a win all five times this season, including the last three weekends. Now the top-ranked Gophers want to find a way to stay on their feet for an entire weekend.

“The first couple of times it happened it was a positive thing to say we could bounce back,” coach Laura Halldorson said. “Now it’s three weekends in a row, and now it’s not so positive.”

Though the quick response with a victory in game two is a plus for Minnesota, the Gophers know that during the stretch run, winning the second night will be too little too late.

“At the end of the season we’re going to have to win that first game,” senior co-captain La Toya Clarke said. “It’s not going to matter if we can respond in the second game or not if we don’t win the first game. We’re trying to get better at coming out and being more focused in the first game.”

Statistically, in every instance, in the second game after a loss or a tie, Minnesota has more offensive output and more players tallying points.

Earlier this month, Minnesota hosted then-top-ranked Dartmouth for a two-game set. In the first game, Dartmouth won 3-2, and five players found their way into the Minnesota scorebook. In game two, the Gophers unleashed an offensive onslaught winning 7-3 with 12 different players tallying points.

While contributions from different players on the ice bolster the Gophers, the pre-game routine for the squad is indicative of team performance as well.

“It’s a concentration or a focus thing,” Halldorson said. “Individually, players need to prepare for games, and as a team we need to prepare for games and be a little bit more focused going into each weekend.”

Minnesota averages 3.4 more goals per game and takes an average of 7.4 more shots per game following a loss or tie in the first game of a series.

Another factor to the increase in offensive production is special teams.

The Gophers have a .250 conversion rate on the power play after a first game loss or tie. That number sinks to .182 in losses or ties in the first game.

Minnesota also tends to take more penalties in the second game, a possible indication that the team members are playing with more fire.

“If we do happen to take more penalties, as long as we’re playing aggressively and taking pride in our defensive zone, we will be fine,” Clarke said. “We play better when we play physically against teams and go out and attack them, and not wait for them to bring their game to us.”

But the question of whether they can bring their best game in the inaugural contest of a series remains unanswered for the Gophers.

“In the first game, we’ve been having a little problem with motivation,” sophomore defender Allie Sanchez said. “We need to get ourselves up for big games. We know we need to pick it up and find that for the first game. “

For Minnesota, the key is to play to its potential and not worry about the opponent. The Gophers want to play their own game right from the start.

“When we do come and play, it’s hard for people to skate with us,” Clarke said. “We just have to rely on our strengths. Being aggressive and using our skating game is what wins us games.”