Bulldogs hockey crowd awaits Spehar, Angell

Tim Nichols

When Minnesota’s men’s hockey team takes on Minnesota-Duluth this weekend in the final homestand of the year for the Bulldogs, it will be the first homecoming for freshman Nick Angell.
It will also be the fourth for junior Dave Spehar.
The story of these two Duluth East products runs in very different directions: While Spehar’s homecomings are filled with loud and angry Bulldogs fans, Angell’s will be a little more peaceful.
“It’ll be nice,” Angell said, “I haven’t been home since Christmas. My parents will be there because they have season tickets, and we only get two tickets for the games. Hopefully, I’ll have a little bit of an entourage there.”
Regardless of what should be a very pleasant family reunion for Angell, anytime the Gophers head to the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center emotions tend to run a little higher than normal.
And no one would know that more than Spehar.
Last year in Duluth, the entire student section was draped in the latest in northern Minnesotan fashion — T-shirts that said “Spehar Sucks.”
“They already have new ones printed,” Spehar said. “Wyatt (Smith) and Bill (Kohn) saw it. It says ‘Spehar Still Sucks.'”
The Gophers used to treat previous contests as “just another series.” But now that Minnesota is in the stretch run of the season, every game is critical.
Minnesota is currently in control of its own destiny for home-ice in the first round, which is awarded to the top five teams in the WCHA. All the Gophers have to do is win their next four games, and they are guaranteed a home series.
But before they start thinking of playoff action, the Gophers must tame the wild crowd at the DECC.
“I love it there, I love being in an atmosphere like that,” defensemen Bill Kohn said. “It’s an exciting atmosphere to play in when it’s 20 guys against the whole place. It really brings a team together.”
And playing together is something that Minnesota is in critical need of doing.
Last Friday in St. Cloud, the Gophers gave up three consecutive goals in the third period because they allowed someone from the opposing team to sneak past the defense, get the puck, and put goaltender Adam Hauser in a one-on-one situation.
Although the Bulldogs are dead last in the conference, they have played hard. And whenever the Gophers are in town, the intensity level usually rises a bit.
One of the Gophers who has risen through the ranks because of injuries and his own work ethic is junior Brad Timmons. The transfer from Northern Michigan will make his second start at left wing after playing defense for the majority of the season.
“It’s more fun playing forward — better to forecheck than getting forechecked on,” Timmons said. “It’s going to be physical out there, and exciting. Their fans don’t like us, and that’s the fun part.”
There is no doubt that the series will be fun to watch, and probably fun to play. But the pressure on the Gophers will be very powerful.
The crux of the series will be how the Gophers handle that pressure. Will they put in one of those efforts where they outwork their opponent and play smart? Or, will they not show up for a couple periods like so many games before?
“We’ve been playing well lately,” Angell said. “These are a couple of must wins for us. We should be able to do that with (an effort of) a full 60 minutes.”

Hurting Gophers
Minnesota will be heading into this weekend’s series a little slimmer on the roster than usual.
Sophomore forward Stuart Senden is out for this series with a high ankle sprain. Sophomore Aaron Miskovich is listed as questionable with a sore shoulder.