Trip can offer bounce back chance

After some bad bounces against UMD, the Gophers look for two road wins.

Gopher Hockey vs. Bemidji St.

Ian Larson

Gopher Hockey vs. Bemidji St.

by Max Sanders

Heading into last weekendâÄôs series with Minnesota-Duluth, the Gophers menâÄôs hockey team felt they had finally righted the ship, winning four of their previous six games. Even after blowing two separate two-goal leads en route to the BulldogâÄôs first sweep at Mariucci since October 2003, the Gophers still feel they are playing a winning style of hockey as they head to Michigan for the College Hockey Showcase. âÄúWell obviously no oneâÄôs happy about getting swept in our home building,âÄù sophomore Jake Hansen said. âÄúAfter we watched [the] video yesterday, really we outplayed Duluth. They just got a few fortunate goals where theyâÄôre going off skates.âÄù In fact, assistant coach Grant Potulny called SaturdayâÄôs 3-2 loss one of MinnesotaâÄôs best-played games this season. âÄúThe guys were committed to protecting the puck. We did a good job of blocking shots; we got pucks to the net,âÄù Potulny said. âÄúIt was one of those games where you just didnâÄôt get any bounces.âÄù Despite the tough bounces, Minnesota (4-7-1 overall, 3-6-1 Western Collegiate Hockey Association) knows it blew a chance at what could have been a four-point weekend. Unlucky bounces are what multiple players attributed as the leading factor of last weekendâÄôs sweep. âÄúThatâÄôs kind of the trend of this season,âÄù freshman Seth Helgeson said. âÄúWeâÄôre just not getting lucky right now; obviously some of these teams are coming in and getting a little lucky with some of the pucks [bouncing] off the skate and what not.âÄù Head coach Don Lucia attributed at least three of last weekendâÄôs goals to pucks deflecting off skates and into the net, and Potulny said itâÄôs only a matter of time before those bounces start going MinnesotaâÄôs way. âÄúYouâÄôre just going to start getting bounces because thatâÄôs just the nature of it,âÄù Potulny said. This weekend, the Gophers play in the College Hockey Showcase against Michigan (5-7, 3-5 Central Collegiate Hockey Association) and Michigan State (9-3-2, 6-2-2 CCHA). The chance for points against non-conference opponents is crucial if the Gophers look to strengthen their résumé for an NCAA Tournament bid. âÄúThese are non-conference games, and these, at the end, are really going to help us get into the regionals,âÄù Hansen said. âÄúIf we come out with two wins here, it would be huge for us.âÄù Minnesota enters this weekend losers of three straight. While the team is frustrated with the recent losing streak, the players are happy with the way they are playing of late. âÄòWeâÄôve been playing some good hockey, and obviously the team will get frustrated,âÄù Helgeson said. âÄúWeâÄôre not too worried. WeâÄôre focused on the season, and thereâÄôs plenty of season left; we donâÄôt have to worry about much. We just have to go out and play.âÄù Increased production from the second through fourth lines would help relieve pressure on the first line, which has been consistently counted on to score goals. âÄúObviously they have the pressure of staying consistent, but IâÄôm sure it helps knowing that other lines try to pick it up, knowing that the whole workload is not going to be on them,âÄù Hansen said. Minnesota will look to rebound in a tournament it has a history of dominating. Over the past six years the Gophers are 7-2-3 in the showcase and 16-11-5 all-time, best among all programs competing in the showcase. A strong performance this weekend could go a long way in easing the memory of last weekendâÄôs sweep, and Potulny believes with the high level the Gophers are playing at, the wins are soon to follow. âÄúIâÄôm a big believer in you get what you deserve,âÄù Potulny said. âÄúI think if we continue to be persistent and do the right things and play the right way âĦ weâÄôre going to win a lot of games coming up.âÄù The Gophers play Michigan on Friday at 6:30 p.m., and Michigan State on Saturday at 6 p.m.