For Minnesota’s men’s hockey coach Don Lucia, his team’s season thus far can be summed up by a span of less than a minute in the Gophers’ Saturday night game with Duluth.
In the second period of that game, with the score 2-1 in favor of the Bulldogs, Minnesota sophomore forward Kris Chucko had a great chance to tie the game but clanged his shot off the post.
Duluth’s Andrew Carroll recovered the puck, carried it into the Gopher zone and beat goalie Jeff Frazee to make it a 3-1 game. Minnesota eventually lost 4-3.
“That’s kind of been our year,” Lucia said.
It certainly has as 12th-ranked Minnesota’s mark sits at 3-3-2 overall (3-2-1 WCHA). The Gophers hope to improve on their disappointing mark this weekend. Minnesota hosts Alaska-Anchorage in a two-game Western Collegiate Hockey Association set at Mariucci Arena. Game times are set for 7:07 p.m.
Before they can hope to improve this weekend, the Gophers began the week by hoping just to improve in practice.
After Saturday’s loss both Lucia and the players said the team has not had a strong work ethic during the week thus far and that has translated on the ice.
As of Wednesday before practice, Lucia – who announced Tuesday that players would not be made available to the media until after Friday’s game – said he’s been seen increased effort.
“We’ve had two good days of practice,” he said. “We’ve worked them hard and I think we’ve made some progress.”
While poor practices might have something to do with the team’s play, one thing that doesn’t, according to Lucia, is a recent KMSP-TV report about underage players on the team drinking at a Dinkytown bar.
“Like I told our players, that that’s what I think some people say: One plus one equals two,” Lucia said. “But to be honest I don’t feel that way at all.
“I honestly don’t believe there’s any relationship whatsoever.”
Lucia said Wednesday star junior forward Danny Irmen (broken finger) has been out skating a bit but is still not ready to play this weekend. Lucia also said he was doubtful for the series at Denver next weekend and that he hopes he’ll be back for games at Michigan and Michigan State over Thanksgiving weekend.
As for senior defenseman Peter Kennedy, out since Oct. 29, 2004, with a hip injury, Lucia said it’s possible he could play this weekend.
“Peter’s still dealing with the aftereffects of surgery and from the surgery his mobility was affected to a degree,” he said.
Lucia said there is still no time table on the return of sophomore defenseman Nate Hagemo (shoulder and neck).
One thing he was sure of was that he doesn’t want to rush him back.
“We can’t keep going into the cycle that, you know, he can play and then not play,” he said. “He’s good for two weeks and then bad for two weeks, so, we’re going to do everything we can to try to get him healthy at some point this year.”