Spehar basks in shadow of Gophers spotlight

Michael Rand

Following an excellent high school career at Duluth East in which he amassed a state record 311 points, Dave Spehar had a lot of eyes resting on him.
Spehar was the buzzword during the first week of Gophers hockey practice, before the first series against Colorado College and, again, when the Gophers traveled to his hometown during the second weekend of the season to face Minnesota-Duluth.
After the freshman’s slow start, some of the hype started to die down. Spehar-mania just wasn’t present anymore.
Now a more low-profile player, the 5-foot-7 forward is in the midst of a nine-game point streak. His success is not surprising, but it is a little ironic that he’s getting less attention now than he was when things weren’t going as well.
“It’s just luck,” Spehar said of his streak. “But it is kind of a load off.”
For the season, Spehar has seven goals and 12 assists. His 19 points are fifth on the team, and his three game-winning goals are tied for the most on the team.
He said he’s getting more comfortable now that he’s halfway through the season.
“I just needed some time to get used to everything,” Spehar said. “It gets easier and easier every game.”
Not a pipe dream
As if solving goaltenders Steve DeBus and Brian Leitza isn’t daunting enough, Gophers and Huskies shooters had to deal with some unaccommodating goal posts in last weekend’s series.
The Gophers clanged three pipes in their 5-2 loss at St. Cloud, while the Huskies were stymied twice by goalposts in their 6-4 loss at Minnesota the following night.
Several of the near-misses in both games came in situations when the trailing teams could have built momentum to make comebacks had the puck found the net.
A joking but pipe-weary Craig Dahl, whose team also hit a few goalposts in the Huskies’ 4-3 win over the Gophers in mid-December, is considering a new line of work.
“We should be iron workers,” he said.

Breakdown
Despite earning a split against St. Cloud State with an emotional 6-4 victory Saturday night, the Gophers continued to allow too many good scoring chances for their opponent.
Time after time, Huskies players slipped past Gophers defensemen to get point blank shots at DeBus.
Fortunately for Minnesota, DeBus made several tremendous saves in the victory.
“We have too good of a goalie,” Gophers forward Casey Hankinson said. “He makes us look good.”
The absence of defenseman Brian LaFleur, who separated his shoulder Dec. 27 against Boston College, damaged the team’s depth on the blue line.
LaFleur skated with the team Tuesday for the first time since his injury and is hoping to be back for the Minnesota-Duluth series on Feb. 14-15.
Everybody’s upset
Just in case it wasn’t clear, Gophers sophomore Reggie Berg wanted to make sure everyone knew how upsetting the team’s 5-2 loss on Friday was.
“The team was upset, the coaches were upset, the fans were upset,” Berg said.
Continuing the theme and taking things a step further, Berg finished with, “I think the guy at home eating potato chips on his couch was probably upset.”
Players of the Week
The WCHA doled out its weekly awards, naming Colorado College center Brian Swanson the league’s top offensive player, Alaska-Anchorage goalie Doug Teskey the top defensive player and Alaska-Anchorage defenseman Matt Williams the top freshman.
Swanson assisted on four goals in the Tigers’ split with Minnesota-Duluth, including the game winner in Colorado College’s 5-4 win on Friday.
Teskey stopped 58 of 59 shots as the Seawolves defeated Northern Michigan 5-1 and 1-0. Included in those totals were 26 saves in Saturday’s shutout, only the second of Teskey’s career.
Williams won the rookie award based on his solid defensive play in the Seawolves’s sweep.
Slap Shots
ù DeBus dropped to second in the league in goals-against average behind Denver’s Jim Mullin, after leading the WCHA for several consecutive weeks.
ù Minnesota-Duluth freshman Brant Nicklin has made 23 consecutive starts and is the only goalie in the league to play in every minute of his team’s league games.
ù The Seawolves’ sweep at Northern Michigan was their first road sweep since the 1993-94 season.