DeBus rewarded for weekend

Aaron Kirscht

Gophers goaltender Steve DeBus received his second Defensive Player of the Week award of the season on Monday in return for his stellar weekend against Wisconsin.
He stopped 54 of 55 shots in the Gophers’ sweep, broke the career 2,000 save barrier and earned his fifth career shutout on Saturday.
“When things are going well, the bounces seem to go your way,” DeBus said.
On Saturday, DeBus was able to avoid giving up the dreaded “soft” goal that’s plagued him and the Gophers all season. The lone goal in Friday’s game was of that variety, a half-hearted flick-shot from the circle that surprised DeBus and snuck in under his glove midway through the third period.
Minnesota again led 4-0 after two periods on Saturday, setting up a similar shutout scenario. And DeBus was clear about his intentions: He wasn’t going to let this one get away.
“I always think about it, honestly,” DeBus said. “But when it comes down to the last few minutes, you’ve just got to really `serious it up’ and make sure you’re focusing.”
Gophers coach Doug Woog said last week that DeBus would likely be the starter for the rest of the season. If Minnesota has any chance of putting together a run for fifth place and home ice in the first round of the WCHA playoffs, it will need more performances like this from DeBus.
But Woog was careful not to read too much into DeBus’ effectiveness.
“I think it all depends on what happens after this,” Woog said. “It’s very important for him to use this as a springboard for the future. History will tell us whether this was a turning point at all.”
Wyatt Smith (three goals and one assist on Saturday, the first hat trick of his career and the first of the season for the Gophers) and Ryan Kraft (four goals and an assist, after scoring only two goals all season) were challengers for offensive honors, and freshman Stuart Senden (two goals, one assist) seemed like a natural pick for rookie of the week.
But on the heels of sweeps by their respective teams, the awards went to Minnesota-Duluth forward Mike Peluso (three goals, three assists) and North Dakota rookie Jay Panzer (1 goals, 4 assists).
K-R-A-F-T spells delicious
Kraft’s reemergence as a goal-scoring threat for the Gophers was one of the more intriguing storylines of the weekend.
But his five points against Wisconsin weren’t terribly surprising. He’s made a career of beating the Badgers.
In the WCHA regular-season finale last March, Kraft scored a hat trick that propelled Minnesota to a co-championship with North Dakota. He leads active Gophers with 17 career points (11 goals, six assists) in 17 games against the Badgers.
With his first-period goal on Saturday, Kraft scored his 150th career, the 22nd player in Minnesota history to do so.
“I think it’s more timing than anything else,” Kraft said. “Last year, we had to win two games, and this year we had to bounce back from last weekend. I like to play under those situations with that kind of pressure.
“Hopefully there will be a lot of pressure on us next weekend (at North Dakota) and I can go up there and perform just as well.”
If you can’t beat ’em …
With his team still winless at either the new Mariucci Arena or the Target Center, Wisconsin coach Jeff Sauer figured he might as well start rooting for the Gophers.
Well, this weekend, at least.
Minnesota travels to first-place North Dakota this weekend. After the sweep, Wisconsin dropped to second.
As he was leaving Target Center on Saturday, Sauer poked his head between the throng of reporters surrounding Woog and offered a bit of selfish advice.
“Just let me say one thing: Do the same thing next weekend,” Sauer said.