Colorado College visits in late-season crucial series

The Gophers have lost five of six games and hope to end the skid.

Hockey vs. North Dakota

Ian Larson

Hockey vs. North Dakota

Max Sanders

Though itâÄôs likely too late, the Gophers menâÄôs hockey team knows any remaining chance they have at gaining home ice in the first round of the conference tournament begins and ends with this weekendâÄôs key series. Minnesota (13-15-2, 8-12 Western Collegiate Hockey Association) hosts Colorado College (17-10-3, 11-8-3) in the final full regular season series at Mariucci Arena. The Gophers have one remaining home series against Wisconsin, but the first game of that matchup will be played at the Target Center. If Minnesota is to host another two-game series at Mariucci this season, they know they have to turn their season around starting this weekend. âÄúWe really canâÄôt afford to give away any more points than we already have,âÄù senior winger Mike Carman said. âÄúWeâÄôve dug ourselves a hole. ItâÄôs not like we canâÄôt get out of it, but itâÄôs going to take a couple big weekends ahead of us here before playoffs.âÄù Minnesota had a chance last weekend to gain ground on Colorado College, who has the fifth and final home ice spot and was idle last weekend. But the Gophers were swept by Denver, keeping them seven points behind the Tigers for the final home playoff spot. âÄúThis could definitely be a big turning point,âÄù freshman Nick Leddy said. âÄúItâÄôd be really big if we got some points this weekend.âÄù Minnesota has lost five of itsâÄô past six games. If the team hopes to turn itsâÄô fortunes around, Minnesota will need to receive better play from an offense that has become anemic during the recent losing stretch. âÄúThe most important thing we got to do is find a way to score goals,âÄù Gophers head coach Don Lucia said. âÄúThatâÄôs been our issue since day one âĦ WeâÄôve said it many times, when we get to three [goals], we have a pretty good chance of winning. Too many games this year, we havenâÄôt got to three.âÄù In MinnesotaâÄôs past five losses the team scored a total of seven goals, and Lucia knows to turn the teamâÄôs offensive play around, some players will need to have more of a me-first attitude. âÄúI think we have some guys that are capable of scoring a few more goals,âÄù Lucia said. âÄúI think we have a couple guys that almost need to be a little bit more selfish and look to shoot.âÄù LuciaâÄôs squad will face the Tigers for the first time this season. While Colorado College has won five of the last seven meetings between the teams, the Gophers have dominated the Tigers at home, winning five of the last six games between the teams at Mariucci Arena. âÄúItâÄôs always a good series,âÄù Lucia said. âÄúTheyâÄôre a clean team and want to play up and down the rink, and I think thatâÄôs why our fans enjoy this series as much as any all year long.âÄù Colorado College enters this series on the heels of a three-game winning streak. The Tigers will bring an offensive attack that currently ranks second in the WCHA conference and 10th in the nation; Lucia knows limiting chances is a key to this weekendâÄôs matchup. âÄúTheyâÄôre a good team,âÄù Lucia said. âÄúA different type of team, a smaller, quicker team; very good in transition.âÄù After a hot start to open the second half of the season against non conference competition, Minnesota is 2-5-1 against WCHA opponents since the break. Lucia attributes the teamâÄôs struggles to playing in a conference that boasts five teams ranked in the top 10 nationally. âÄúIn the WCHA, when you look at where teams are ranked nationally, how strong our league is right now and what a fine line there is between seventh place and fourth place,âÄù Lucia said. âÄúWe can certainly look at our year and say if we would have won these three or four games in the league and overall âĦ [but] we havenâÄôt found a way to win those games, and it has been frustrating and it has been disappointing but you just have to fight on.âÄù FridayâÄôs game will start at 6 p.m., and SaturdayâÄôs game will be played at 3 p.m. The game times were shifted from their normal 7 p.m. start due to a change in the Gophers menâÄôs basketball tipoff Saturday.