Men’s hockey trying to solve first period blues

by Adam Fink

Matt Koalska doesn’t have a solid explanation for it. Nick Anthony thinks it could be a mental thing.

The two forwards on Minnesota’s men’s hockey team are at a loss when trying to explain the Gophers’ inability to put the puck in the net during the first period of a game.

“It just seems to take us a little while to get going,” Koalska said. “We need to be more prepared maybe. We just need to get rolling from the get-go.”

Through seven games this season, Minnesota (4-1-2, 1-0-1 Western Collegiate Hockey Association) has scored eight goals in the first period. Over the final two periods, the fourth-ranked Gophers have scored 29 goals.

As Minnesota prepares for its weekend series at Minnesota State-Mankato, the team hopes to score goals early to help their confidence – and ease the growing pains.

Koalska and Anthony noted Minnesota has plenty of opportunities to score.

Against the University of Alabama-Huntsville on Saturday night, the Gophers posted 24 shots on goal in the first period yet only managed one goal.

“We have talked about it,” Anthony said. “Every game we want to come out flying. There just isn’t a good explanation for it.”

One reason could be the extensive line juggling by coach Don Lucia.

Anthony has played on three different lines with six different players already this season, while many other players have moved around because of injury and experimentation.

But the notion of line juggling was quickly dismissed.

Another reason could be the Gophers’ unfamiliarity with their opponents thus far. Minnesota hadn’t played Ohio State since 1998, New Hampshire since 1989 or the Chargers since 1990.

But that solution was also rejected.

“It’s not an excuse,” assistant captain Anthony said. “We just need to be ready to go. Everyone is excited when the puck drops. It just seems like it takes a few shifts to get in rhythm.”

While Anthony reflects the feelings from the ice, the reasoning from the bench is different.

Lucia would like to see more goals but is just happy when the team gets shots on the opposition’s goaltender.

“As a coach, that is really all I can ask for,” Lucia said. “If you run in to a good goaltender, there isn’t a lot you can do. Hopefully, the scoring will just come.”

Until then, Koalska, Anthony and the rest of the Gophers will continue to be baffled at the first period scoring slump.

Reinholz fractures jaw

the injuries are starting to add up for Gophers forwards.

Jerrid Reinholz, a transfer from the University’s Duluth campus, suffered a fractured jaw in the third period of Saturday’s game against Alabama-Huntsville.

The sophomore is out for this weekend’s series at Minnesota State, Mankato.

The recovery time for Reinholz will be determined after he sees a specialist Wednesday.

Reinholz was just beginning to establish himself after sitting out one year. The Ramsey, Minn., native tallied a career-high three assists last Friday in a 12-1 win and was

steadily improving on the ice.

“It’s an unfortunate part of the game,” Lucia said. “Some years you don’t have many injuries, other years you do. This year they just seem to keep coming.”

Reinholz is the fourth forward to go down, following injuries to Grant Potulny, Barry Tallackson and Jon Waibel.

The Gophers only have 14 healthy bodies left at the forward position.

Women’s hockey

the WCHA named Gopher forward Natalie Darwitz as the league’s rookie of the week for her performance against Wisconsin last weekend. It is the second rookie of the week award for Darwitz this season.

Darwitz notched three points on the weekend, two of which came in Minnesota’s 2-1 victory Saturday afternoon.