U puck reigns over UMD

Michael Rand

Statistics probably mean more to sports commentators and journalists than they do to most other segments of the population — particularly players and coaches.
Baseball players rarely know what their batting averages are and most football coaches wouldn’t know what they’re success rate is inside the red zone.
Don’t be fooled, however, by athletes and coaches who plead ignorance when it comes to success against a particular team.
They may not be able to rattle off their record against a team in the past four years. They probably won’t be able to recall the amount by which they outscored that opponent.
But they know.
Many times one team happens to have the other team’s proverbial number. The Gophers hockey team, for instance, has enjoyed a pretty good run against its opponent this weekend, Minnesota-Duluth.
Every player asked in the Gophers locker room knew about their recent success against the Bulldogs. One player — Ryan Kraft — was even aware that the Gophers have won 10 consecutive games over two years against their rivals to the north.
The next question is, do they care? The answer varies from person to person.
“Ten in a row is great and impressive, but it’s not something you think about,” said senior Dan Hendrickson.
Some players think streaks can give one team a psychological advantage over another team.
“It makes you want to win a little more because you don’t want to be a part of the streak ending,” freshman Nate Miller said.
In reality, the Gophers and the Bulldogs are vastly different teams than they were last year or two years ago.
The Gophers lost 10 seniors, including three defensive starters, and are depending on a more balanced attack and a physical style to win games this year.
The Bulldogs lost four-year starting goalie Taras Lendzyk and are depend on inexperienced goaltenders. Last season, however, they relied heavily on freshmen and sophomores for scoring. Those players are now more experienced.
“We’ve had their number for the last couple of years,” Kraft said.
On the whole, neither Kraft nor the rest of the Gophers put much emphasis on the winning streak. Neither did the man on the other end of the streak, Minnesota-Duluth coach Mike Sertich.
“You can get bogged down on (statistics). If we beat them 20 times or they beat us 20 times, so be it,” Sertich said. “It’s like going up to bat. If you’re up there thinking I haven’t gotten a hit in 10 tries against this guy, it’s going to be 11 really soon.”
Sertich said he rarely thinks about or mentions statistics to his team because they make things more complicated than they have to be.
“Sports are simple,” he said. “It’s just recess. It’s fun.”
Slap shots
ù Gophers assistant Mike Guentzel will assume head coaching duties this weekend as head coach Doug Woog serves his suspension. Several players said they’ll be thinking of Woog this weekend.
“We’re going to win a couple of games for Wooger,” Kraft said “No matter what anyone says, it’ll be in the back of our minds.”
ù Guentzel said Steve DeBus will likely start both games in goal for the Gophers, but he added that freshman Erik Day will see action soon.
ù Freshman Dave Spehar, a former standout at Duluth East, will play in his hometown for the first time since joining the Gophers.
“Hopefully the reaction will be positive, and people will remember me for what I did here and not for a personal decision I made,” he said.
ù Mike Anderson aggravated a groin injury in last weekend’s Colorado College series but should be in the lineup against the Bulldogs. If he is healthy, he will start on the first line. Spehar, who played on the first line last weekend, will drop down to the second line.
Injured players Reggie Berg and Rico Pagel should be available for next weekend’s series at Wisconsin.