Lucia loosens the collar

After taking just one point on the weekend, the Gophers actually got a couple days off.

Ben Goessling

After a frustrated Don Lucia proclaimed Saturday that “training camp starts Monday” for Minnesota’s men’s hockey team, the coach had a change of heart.

Lucia watched film of Minnesota’s loss and tie with Alaska-Anchorage during the weekend and realized the Gophers’ problems weren’t necessarily in their legs.

So after an intense 80-minute practice Monday, Lucia gave the Gophers that Tuesday and Wednesday off.

“I was upset we gave up the tying goal with seven seconds left on Saturday,” he said. “You have to step back from it and look at what’s best for the team in the long term. A couple days off might do them some good.”

Minnesota has an exhibition game with the U.S. National Under-18 team Saturday night at Mariucci Arena before closing the year against St. Cloud State and Michigan Tech.

But short of a weightlifting session Wednesday, the Gophers got as far away from hockey as they could.

“I was thinking we’d get one day off at some point, but it was kind of a surprise,” center Gino Guyer said. “It was a good idea. I think guys needed it mentally and physically.”

The respite also reassured many Gophers players who felt they got less than they deserved against the Seawolves.

Minnesota outshot Alaska-Anchorage 115-46, and Guyer said the Gophers needed to hear Lucia say their effort wasn’t for naught.

“I looked across from me, and I thought everyone in that locker room gave 110 percent. Knowing coach felt the same way was good for us,” Guyer said. “At first, a lot of guys were like, ‘Training camp?’ But we weren’t winning at home, and it needed to be addressed.”

The problem that still has Lucia puzzled, he said, is the play of goaltender Kellen Briggs, who was lifted from both games after giving up five goals on 28 shots.

Briggs will probably not play Saturday, but Lucia said he’s “not that far off” from his superb play in November.

“There are a couple technical things he needs to work on, and he needs a couple weeks to get himself ready,” Lucia said. “But if he’d made a couple more saves, we wouldn’t even be talking about it.”

Howe hopes to practice

Lucia said forward Mike Howe, who has been out the last three weeks with an undisclosed medical condition, will visit a doctor today and could be cleared to practice after that appointment.

Howe, a freshman, has three goals and four assists in 25 games.

Final Five gets TV deal

The WCHA and CCHA announced this week they have reached an agreement with Fox Sports Net to provide comprehensive coverage of each league’s playoff tournament during the weekend of March 18-19.

The package, which FSN is calling Breakaway Weekend, will allow local fans to watch live broadcasts of every game in the WCHA Final Five, as well as cutaways to the CCHA Super Six.

The network has also reached agreements with five other regional FSN networks, including stations in Chicago, New England, New York and the southeast United States, and plans to broadcast the tournaments to 38 million fans across the country.

“This shows just how big college hockey has gotten around the country,” WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod said. “I don’t think we could have done something like this a few years ago.”

McLeod also said WCHA coaches have petitioned the NCAA Rules Committee to include instant replay – which is being used on a trial basis at Denver and Colorado College this season – at every conference rink next year.