Gophers have good chance for first win

by Chris Lempesis

Minnesota men’s hockey coach Don Lucia was straightforward in his assessment of this weekend’s opponent, Wayne State.

“To be honest, I don’t know anything about them other than they’re in the same conference (College Hockey America) as Bemidji (State),” Lucia said. “And I looked at their roster and they have 11 seniors on the team this year.”

While Lucia and the rest of the Gophers might not know much about Wayne State – junior forward Mike Howe mistakenly thought the Warriors played in the CCHA, for example – Minnesota is still hoping to learn more about itself in the two-game set at Mariucci Arena.

Game times are set for 7:07 p.m. today and Saturday night.

On the offensive end, the eighth-ranked Gophers (0-1-0 overall) will be looking for improved play from their returning forwards.

In Friday’s 3-1 season-opening loss to Maine at the Xcel Energy Center, the group was outperformed by the team’s crop of freshman forwards.

The freshmen, led by players such as Jay Barriball and Mike Carman, got the majority of Minnesota’s solid scoring chances while the returning forwards were surprisingly quiet throughout the contest.

Howe chalked the subpar performance of the returning forwards up to the fact that this early in the season, the group is still developing chemistry with its linemates.

Still, Lucia said he’d like to see a better showing this weekend.

“I think that they’re certainly capable of playing better than what they played in that opening game against Maine,” he said. “I’m hoping to see them take another step now and play much better.”

Newcomers and veterans alike played well for Minnesota on defense Friday. Aside from a fluky Black Bears goal and an empty-netter, the Gophers essentially shut Maine down.

Minnesota limited Maine to just 10 shots on goal in the final two periods with most of those shots being low quality.

When the Black Bears did get quality chances, sophomore goaltender Jeff Frazee was solid.

After getting a chance to watch the film from Friday, Frazee – who will start both games this weekend as senior Kellen Briggs finishes up his three-game suspension – said he thought he was in good control of his movements and that he wasn’t diving around.

Frazee said he’s looking for more of that this weekend against the Warriors (0-0-0).

“Just work on my movements and stay in control, I guess,” he said.

“I don’t want to give up bad rebounds or (be) flopping around when I don’t need to. I think that’s going to be a main point for me.”

It seems Minnesota has just as much to figure out about itself as it does about Wayne State.

And at this point in the season, learning about themselves is much more important for the Gophers.

“We’re just trying to concentrate on our own team and try to get better in what we’re doing,” Lucia said.

Injury update

Lucia said Wednesday that sophomore forward Justin Bostrom (knee) will be out for the series this weekend.Bostrom injured his knee in Sunday night’s 6-2 exhibition win over Lethbridge at Mariucci Arena.

As for when he will return, Lucia said it’s “kind of week by week.”

“We know that he’ll be out for a few weeks,” he said. “We just don’t know if it’s gonna be two, three, four or whatever it’s gonna be.

“I think we’ll know more in about two weeks about where he’s at or how close he is.”