Opportunities are there, but U missing out

by Tim Nichols

During the Gophers men’s hockey team’s one-point showing — a 3-3 tie on Saturday and a 5-0 loss on Sunday — against Denver, one thing became painfully clear.
Minnesota’s offense is stuck like a ’73 Pinto in minus-50 degree weather.
“I never figured it was going to be 5-0, I tell you that,” coach Doug Woog said. “I would be frustrated if I was (one of the players). We played pretty well last night, and then five minutes of misery, not all their own fault. You need wins. They should be in the same mood (the coaches) are in, and that’s very unhappy and very dissatisfied.”
For the most part, Woog makes a good point. The Gophers were getting many goal-scoring opportunities, but shot most of them wide of the net or right into goaltender Stephen Wagner’s chest.
Minnesota outshot the Pioneers 78-49 for the series. But it’s the numbers on the scoreboard that matter.
“We hoped to come out here and do something,” captain Wyatt Smith said. “Our backs are against the wall now.”
From this point on, the Gophers might struggle to stay in the middle of the WCHA pack. After this weekend’s non-conference series against Minnesota State, the Gophers will travel to Grand Forks to take on No. 1 North Dakota, host Michigan Tech and then travel back to Colorado to play the No. 2 Tigers.
The games promise to be tough, but they might as well be unwinnable if this offensive slump continues.
“I think if you look at the chances Wyatt (Smith) and Reggie (Berg) had, they were quality, legitimate opportunities,” Woog said. “They’re getting their opportunities; they’re just not putting it away.”
It will have to be the seniors who will lead this team if they want to make any sort of a comeback in the later half of the WCHA schedule. Smith and Berg totaled one goal and two assists Saturday, but were shut out with the rest of the team Sunday.
Senior defenseman Bill Kohn also struggled mightily in the series. His lowest moment came in the first period when Denver’s Gavin Morgan shot the puck off Kohn’s skate into the back of the net.
Can the Gophers comeback? Perhaps. But someone is going to have to raise their game, and do it quickly.
If it’s in the game,it’s in the game
During Saturday’s tie against Denver at Colorado Springs, sophomore Erik Westrum tried to break Minnesota out of its scoring malaise by using a move that hasn’t been seen in a long time.
Westrum streaked toward goaltender Stephen Wagner from left to right and then tried to beat him along the ice with a circa-1979 Denis Savard-esque spin-o-rama.
But Westrum borrowed the move from a different medium.
“I saw that move on the Sega (video game system),” Westrum said. “My brother (back-up goaltender Ryan) and I play it all the time. I just figured I couldn’t beat him doing anything else, so I might as well try this.”
Hello, Newman
The Gophers kept up their streak of making an opponent look like an All-American by allowing seldom-used forward Jon Newman to score three goals and an assist over the series.
The week before, Minnesota made a viable All-America candidate out of Boston College’s Jeff Farkas, who scored five goals for the Eagles over the weekend.
ù Minnesota’s power play has been pitiful lately. The Gophers are five for their last 50 man-advantage opportunities.
ù Minnesota is 1-18-2 in the last two seasons when they are trailing after one period.
ù As the old saying goes, defense wins championships. To wit, the Gophers are 0-10-1 this season when the opposition scores four or more goals.