Five for ’15: North Star College Cup Extra

Ben Gotz

In the state of hockey, Minnesota's marquee program doesn't seem to quite measure up right now.

With the Gophers getting swept in the North Star College Cup, they finished last out of the four particiapting schools in the state.

"We always want to beat state teams," senior forward Travis Boyd said. "We’re the Gophers. Every year we come in and say we want to win the state."

But this year, the state belongs to Bemidji after a 3-1 victory over the No. 1 Minnesota State – Mankato Mavericks, who defeated the Gophers 4-2 the night before. The Gophers found themselves playing in an earlier time slot in the consolation game, and allowed Duluth to break a four game winless streak with a late goal to win 2-1.

The end result was a rough finish to the Gophers non-conference schedule, with now only the Big Ten schedule remaining.

Here's four more takeaways from the Gophers weekend, starting with some Friday night drama:

2. Williams Take-Off

Head coach Don Lucia said he had never seen a play like it.

With time winding down in the third period the Gophers were trying to rally late from a 4-2 deficit with a 6-on-4 advantage on the ice, when Mankato forward Jordan Nelson blocked a shot and stayed down on the ice. Play continued for about 20 seconds, until Mankato goaltender Stephon Williams pushed his net off his pegs.

Mankato head coach Mike Hastings said he understood why the referees didn't blow the whistle on their own for the injured player, but he didn't like it. He also was a little confused with his goaltender's decision.

"What are you doing?," Hastings said after the game. "We’ve got everything under control. It’s one of those things where you don’t plan for that stuff, and it made for some good drama."

The Gophers had the option of taking a penalty to give them a 6-on-3 advantage with 1:13 remaining, or taking a penalty shot. Lucia elected to have senior forward Seth Ambroz take the penalty shot, but Williams denied him.

"Penalty shot is feast or famine so I’m glad it went our way," Hastings said.

3. Offense and PP Struggles

The Gophers struggled to generate offense in both of their games over the weekend, and even their No. 1 ranked power play stalled.

While the Gophers did get a power-play goal over the weekend and another goal on a delayed penalty, they finished the weekend 1-7 on the power play. And only one of their goals came during five-on-five hockey.

"It’s seems like with our team we get one or two or five," Lucia said. "There’s no that three to four a night. This weekend was a good example, we get two last night and one tonight."

4. Pairwise Rankings

The Gophers two losses dropped them down in the Pairwise rankings to No. 20, putting them further outside the NCAA tournament field.

With a Big Ten schedule featuring only one ranked opponent right now, Michigan, the Gophers will have a tough task trying to pull themselves back into the top 16 of the rankings, which represents the NCAA tournament field.

A Big Ten Tournament championship would give the Gophers an automatic bid, but it will be difficult for the team to climb the rankings otherwise with their remaining schedule.

5. Silver Linings?

As the third period against Duluth crept on, Lucia had an interesting thought cross his mind.

"As the third period’s going on, I’m saying to myself, you know what, maybe we’re finding our team again," Lucia said. "The way we were playing, and then like what’s happened you don’t make play to end the game either to win it or preserve a tie."

Lucia said he was pleased with the low amount of shots the team allowed,  and how junior goaltender Adam Wilcox played Saturday. But he didn't know if the team was seeing the silver linings in their play right now.

"It’s not easy when you go long stretches when you can’t score," Lucia said. "All of a sudden your legs seem to get a little heavier. When you score a goal, guess what, your legs get a little fresher. You got a little more hop to your step."