Losing streak on the line against Seawolves

Four-straight losses havenâÄôt given the Minnesota menâÄôs hockey team much to work with as the Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs loom just one month ahead. The Gophers will try to end their skid this weekend with a two-game home series against Alaska Anchorage. Minnesota (12-9-5 overall, 9-8-3 WCHA) is coming off back-to-back opponent sweeps and losses in six of its last eight, but coach Don Lucia said he has been pleased with the teamsâÄô effort in recent weeks. âÄúFrom an offensive standpoint, we generated what might have been our best offensive weekend of the year [last weekend] based on scoring chances, making plays and going to the net and doing a lot of things that we wanted to do.âÄù Four goals in last SaturdayâÄôs loss to Wisconsin show that Minnesota can score, and statistically the Gophers match up well with the Seawolves, whose 3.25 goals allowed per game is the worst in the conference. But that doesnâÄôt ease the pressure on Minnesota this weekend when the team tries to snap a three-game losing streak at home âÄì the longest such streak since 1993. âÄú[Alaska Anchorage] has gotten points every time theyâÄôve been on the road this year,âÄù sophomore goalie Alex Kangas said. The Seawolves (10-12-4, 7-11-4) have already exceeded its win total from last season by three wins, and sophomore Tommy GrantâÄôs 14 goals are third most in the WCHA behind the 16 posted so far by Ryan Stoa and St. Cloud State forward Ryan Lasch.

Conference outlook

With the WCHAâÄôs top nine teams within 10 points of each other, the conference standings could change substantially before the playoffs begin on March 13. Minnesota âÄì currently tied for sixth in the conference with St. Cloud State âÄì is only seven points out of first place. A sweep by the Seawolves could potentially drop the Gophers to ninth in the WCHA, but two wins for Minnesota could bring the team as high as a tie for third with North Dakota. âÄúWhatâÄôs important is getting home ice in the playoffs,âÄù Lucia said. Denver and Wisconsin are currently tied for first in the conference with 28 points each. âÄúThe thing about the WCHA is anybody can beat anybody else on any given night,âÄù Stoa said, âÄúso if you donâÄôt have your A game thereâÄôs a good chance youâÄôre going to get beat.âÄù