Lucia skates hockey team after lackluster effort at Denver

David La

The nets stayed against the boards and not a puck could be found on the ice, but practice was definitely in session for the Minnesota men’s hockey team Monday.
The sound of coach Don Lucia’s whistle reverberated inside Mariucci Arena, followed by the grunts of players suffering through various drills.
After being swept out of Denver last weekend, the No. 10 Gophers are in the midst of a four-game losing streak — leaving Lucia with a perplexing puzzle to solve.
“There was some good and bad this weekend,” Lucia said. “The bad is we scored one goal and our special teams play was poor. The good is we gave up 20 shots a night. Most times you allow 20 shots on the road, you win.”
Punishing practices can do wonders for discipline, but Minnesota’s primary problem is a lack of offense. The Gophers (9-5-2) have managed a meager four goals during their skid, leaving themselves winless and lifeless.
It took Minnesota only two games to drop 10 goals on North Dakota last month. Stuart Senden’s goal Saturday gave the Gophers their 10th goal in six games since.
Minnesota fired 62 shots on Pioneers goaltender Wade Dubielewicz, but rarely got in position for screens or rebounds — signs of decreasing desire.
“Hockey is a game that has to be played with intensity and focus,” St. Cloud State coach Craig Dahl said. “When you have it, your systems work. When you don’t, your systems won’t work no matter what you do.”
The Gophers systems are clicking with little efficiency, often breaking down in the neutral zone. The short, quick passes which spur quality rushes up the ice are virtually non-existent.
“We can’t come out of our zone with no speed,” junior Johnny Pohl said.
“We’re just going to get trapped and have to dump the puck.
“When we do enter the zone we couldn’t get our shots to the net. We couldn’t create any traffic or get any rebounds.”
In Pohl and Erik Westrum, Minnesota has a pair of 50-point scorers from a year ago, along with players like Jeff Taffe, Troy Riddle and Jordan Leopold — players with great scoring capability.
But instead of freeing up one another with deft passing, players are trying to go from blueline to goal line unassisted.
“What happens is we start to press offensively and one guy tries to do it all,” Lucia said. “That’s where our puck movement suffers.”
So it’s back to work for the Gophers, trying to recapture the attacking mentality and scoring prowess which made them the top scoring team in the WCHA three weeks ago.
But heading into the Denver series, Lucia said he was quite pleased with practices leading up to the weekend.
“Sometimes it has more to do with not bringing it to the game than it is not doing the job in practice,” Wisconsin coach Jeff Sauer said.
“You try to keep the work ethic and tempo going in practice and wait for the next weekend. Hopefully you win a couple games to get back on track.”

David La Vaque covers men’s hockey and welcomes comments at [email protected]