Gophers manufacture 115 shots, one point

Minnesota was seven seconds from a split, when Anchorage tied Saturday’s game.

by Ben Goessling

You’d think 115 shots in a weekend hockey series would be enough to get more than a loss and a tie.

Well, welcome to Minnesota’s men’s hockey team’s 2004-05 season, in which the Gophers do something almost every week to defy logic.

After the team bagged what most thought to be a slump-snapping win at Wisconsin on Feb. 5, Minnesota followed it up with another shocking display of ineptitude at home.

The disbelieving benefactor this time was Alaska-Anchorage, which mustered exactly 40 percent of Minnesota’s shot total but took 75 percent of the points, winning 3-2 Friday and rallying for a 5-5 tie Saturday.

Alaska-Anchorage, which sits seventh in the WCHA standings, joins Michigan Tech as the second bottom-feeder to handle Minnesota at Mariucci Arena.

“I was surprised we hung on to win (Friday),” said Alaska-Anchorage coach and former Minnesota assistant John Hill, who almost sounded as if he were working on a solution to Minnesota’s woes. “They’re a great team, and I’m sure they’ll figure it out.”

At this point, that doesn’t seem like a certainty.

Less than two months ago, the Gophers were riding a school-record, 20-game home win streak. Now, Minnesota is 1-6-1 in its last eight games at home.

But whatever is wrong with the Gophers, it’s nothing Minnesota coach Don Lucia won’t try to beat out of them this week.

“Training camp starts Monday, as far as I’m concerned,” he said. “Maybe shock treatment’s needed, I don’t know. We’re not practicing for an hour, I’ll tell you that.”

Minnesota only has an exhibition game against the U.S. National Under-18 Team on its schedule next weekend, meaning nothing – not even two-a-day practices early this week – is out of the question.

It was Saturday’s game that had Lucia more concerned.

After falling behind 2-0, Minnesota ripped off four unanswered goals – including two within 17 seconds of each other in the second period – only to give up a 4-2 lead in the first 1:31 of the third period.

The Gophers regained the lead with 1:33 left on Judd Stevens’ shot from the point, only to miss a chance to seal the game when Andy Sertich’s empty-net attempt sailed wide with less than a minute to play.

Sertich, who was in a one-on-one, could have skated to the net but fired from the blue line and barely missed.

After pulling goaltender John DeCaro, the Seawolves tied the game with seven seconds left in regulation when Martin Stuchlik scored in a goalmouth scramble.

Minnesota fired 56 shots at DeCaro to 25 for Alaska-Anchorage, but that wasn’t as lopsided as Friday’s hot total – which made Minnesota’s 3-2 loss even more frustrating.

DeCaro, who hadn’t played a game in three months and was forced into action after Nathan Lawson injured his groin in warm ups, made a career-high 57 saves and kept the Gophers at bay until a belated rally fell short.

Alaska-Anchorage took a 3-0 lead in the first two periods, chasing Minnesota goalie Kellen Briggs from the game after just 17:28.

Jim Dahl, who worked his way into the lineup in warmups after Chris Tarkir was scratched, scored the Seawolves’ first goal, and the Seawolves added two more in the second period before Mike Vannelli put the Gophers on the board with 5:12 left in the frame.

But in the third period, the Gophers hit the post twice and DeCaro’s pads another 18 times and spent the first 40 seconds of a six-on-four power play passing the puck around, rendering Gino Guyer’s kick-in goal with eight seconds left meaningless.

“The guys were looking at each other after the game and wondering, ‘With so many shots, how could we not score more than two?’ ” Guyer said.