Early hype results in just a tie

Chris Lempesis

Coming into the first weekend of the regular season, Minnesota’s men’s hockey team was ranked No. 1 in the country.

It’s hard to imagine the Gophers will hold that same position coming out of the weekend, though.

Plagued by inconsistency and outworked for the majority of two games, Minnesota earned all of one point as it tied Alaska-Fairbanks at 3 on Saturday after losing 4-3 in overtime Friday at Mariucci Arena.

Coach Don Lucia said he was “very surprised” at how his team played throughout the series – and not in a good way.

“Overall, I think, this weekend (Alaska-Fairbanks was) the better team and we have to go back to work,” Lucia said. “I think that we can throw the press clippings away and put the work boots on because that’s when you have success.

“I’ll take the blame. I obviously have done a poor job getting this team ready the first two weeks of the season.”

Minnesota actually trailed Fairbanks 3-2 in both third periods and didn’t force overtime on Friday until senior forward Gino Guyer scored with 31 seconds left in regulation.

And really, the Gophers (0-1-1) put together just two strong periods over the weekend; the second period Friday and the first period Saturday. Four of Minnesota’s six goals came in those two frames.

Other than that, the advantage in the remaining four periods, and the overtime Friday, went to the Nanooks (1-0-1). The visitors from the north appeared hungrier than Minnesota, and it showed as Fairbanks beat the home team in just about every aspect of the game.

And while the Gophers might have had a major edge in talent, that didn’t mean much this weekend.

“You’re only as good as hard as you play,” Guyer said after Friday’s game.

Fairbanks was especially dominant in the physical aspects of the game, out-hitting the Gophers pretty much all weekend.

“We have too many guys trying to be too cute,” Lucia said. “You have to have some guys that want to go play physical as well. And that was sorely lacking this weekend.”

Lucia was critical of his team on just about every level. Senior forward Andy Sertich, who tallied a goal and an assist on the weekend, said the coaches were definitely not shy in voicing their displeasure after Saturday night’s contest.

“They’re not happy with us and they shouldn’t be,” Sertich said.

This should all make for an interesting – that is, grueling – week of practice for Minnesota as it prepares to open the Western Collegiate Hockey Association slate next weekend with a two-game series against Minnesota State-Mankato at Mariucci Arena.

“We’ll see who wants to earn it this week in practice,” Lucia said. “Which 12 forwards and which six defensemen.”

Irmen out

If things weren’t bad enough for Minnesota this weekend, they got worse when the team learned star junior forward Danny Irmen will likely be out for 4-6 weeks with a hand injury, Lucia said after Saturday’s game.

He wouldn’t comment on whether or not Irmen broke his hand, but he did say the injury occurred when Irmen blocked a shot late in overtime Friday.