Chucko snaps dry spell in time to bail out Minnesota

Chris Lempesis

DENVER ” Entering the season, it was thought that Kris Chucko would assume the role as one of Minnesota’s men’s hockey team’s top goal scorers.

Chucko had more goals (10) than any other freshman last season and came into camp as the most talked about sophomore on the team.

But then a funny thing happened ” well, maybe not funny for Chucko.

The goals just didn’t come.

Mired in an 11-game goalless slump, Chucko got back on the score sheet with a vengeance Saturday.

The Burnaby, British Columbia, native scored the game-tying and game-winning goals in the Gophers’ 4-3 win against Denver at Magness Arena.

“He’s been frustrated and you try to tell guys, “Even if it’s not going in offensively, you gotta find other ways to contribute,’ ” coach Don Lucia said. “But it was nice for him to get the two goals in the third period tonight, and hopefully that will take a burden off his shoulders.”

Perhaps the biggest source of anxiety for Chucko during the slump was the fact that he was getting plenty of chances. In fact, it would be tough to find a member of the Gophers who has heard the sound of a puck clanging off a post or crossbar more than Chucko.

Chucko was also feeling pressure because he’s been on one of the top two lines of forwards throughout the season.

“I had a few assists this year,” Chucko said, “But I gotta be able to put the puck in the net, and I’m expected to.”

While the expectations for goals might have been there, Chucko’s slump got so bad that when he scored his first goal Saturday ” on a rocket that knocked the water bottle off the top of the net ” he thought his shot had hit the crossbar.

“I was ready to go nuts (when I saw that),” Chucko said. “I did a double-check, and I saw the water bottle, so I was pretty happy about that. I was a little clueless as to what to do after that because I haven’t celebrated a goal in awhile.”

It had been quite some time since Chucko dented the twine. His last goal came in Minnesota’s 7-2 win over Minnesota State University, Mankato in the first round of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs March 11.

And, as long of a stretch as that is, it would not be wise to assume that Chucko will go through one like that again anytime soon.

Gophers sign six

After Saturday night’s game with the Pioneers, Minnesota announced signing of six players to national letters of intent to play for the Gophers for the 2006-2007 season in the early signing period.