Hockey team to host defensive-minded Alaska

David La

The Minnesota men’s hockey team plays host to Alaska-Anchorage this weekend, the nation’s leading practitioners of thinking outside the box.
The Seawolves were the least-penalized NCAA team last season, logging a minuscule 8.22 minutes in hockey’s cozy correctional facility every night.
Rather than encourage his troops to search and destroy, fifth-year coach Dean Talafous prefers to keep his skaters on the ice, free to take their shots on goaltenders.
“What’s wrong with skating and hitting and doing it without getting put in the box?,” Talafous said. “I think that can be intimidating.
“This mentality that you have to stick somebody when they look at you funny; that’s an old-time, beer drinking, slug-fest type of attitude.”
Gophers coach Don Lucia also downplays the need for, or effects of, overzealous intimidation tactics.
“In college, they call the game tighter and there’s no threat of fighting,” Lucia said. “So its a lot more difficult to intimidate.
“But its part of the game to go in and play the body. You play the body and you can create turnovers.”
Talafous doesn’t instruct his players to faint at the thought of contact either.
“One of our responsibilities is to teach these kids to compete and battle fiercely, but to do it with some poise, some self-control and some discipline,” Talafous said. “A big hit is a big hit. You don’t have to do it by cracking somebody’s skull open, checking them from behind or punching them.”
Lucia concurs. For every scorer who puts points on the board, a player able to put opponents on their backsides is also needed.
“I favor a more skillful style of play, but at the same time you don’t want to back down from people,” Lucia said. “You need some guys that go throw their body around but they don’t need to slash or spear.”
The Seawolves philosophy of avoiding penalties should serve them well against Minnesota, who’s hitting on 50 percent of its opportunities with the man advantage.
In last season’s split, Alaska-Anchorage permitted the Gophers a scant four power plays in two games.
Just like every weekend for the past two seasons, Lucia and the Gophers hope for more even-strength scoring. Against the Seawolves, they probably won’t have much choice.
For Talafous, reduction in penalties is both a game strategy and a statement on sportsmanship.
“Its a physical, tough, at times even violent game,” Talafous said. “But I don’t know why you can’t have respect for yourself and others doing all that.
“We’ve made a stand to be good role-models in this community.”

David La Vaque covers men’s hockey and welcomes comments at [email protected]