Power play runs dry for

by Tim Nichols

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The Gophers men’s hockey team suffered one of its toughest setbacks of the year in a 3-1 loss to No. 5 Colorado College on Saturday.
It wasn’t that the Gophers were particularly out-played or out-hustled, it just came down to the most difficult — and most obvious — point of all.
They couldn’t score.
“If our power play clicks, we win,” Woog said. “It didn’t, we lost.”
Minnesota matched up effort-wise with the Tigers on Saturday, after barely showing up on Friday. But the primary reason Minnesota left town on the short end of a sweep was a feeble 0-for-5 performance on the power play.
“At times it was OK,” Woog said. “We just couldn’t get the puck in. A lack of high skill at the point becomes a factor in these close games.”
Jordan Leopold is regarded as one of the best young defensemen in the country, known for his poise with the puck and vision on the ice, but the freshman has struggled recently with the responsibility of heading up the power play unit.
“It’s frustrating right now,” Leopold said. “We can’t set it up. We break out into the zone, then they shoot it all the way down the ice.”
The ability to quarterback a power play doesn’t develop overnight in even the most talented players. It requires a certain amount of skill and experience, but most of all it demands a clear mind to handle the different situations that appear with the man advantage.
“There are two 18-year-olds handling our power play (Leopold and freshman Nick Angell),” Woog said. “They have a 24- and a 23-year-old. It’s not just age and experience, it’s also skill. Our guys seem to have trouble making decisions.”
The Gophers’ freshmen could probably learn a lot from 24-year-old Colorado College senior Scott Swanson. He played the point like a featured violinist at the philharmonic and gave a virtuoso performance. Swanson scored 3 goals and 2 assists, with a goal and an assist coming on the power play.
“We came out and moved our feet, that’s what the coach (Don Lucia) stressed,” Swanson said. “We skated well tonight, and took advantage of some of their inexperience on defense.”
Minnesota’s power play has been the difference between winning and losing many times this year. For a team that doesn’t have a truly intimidating individual offensive threat, the need for cohesion on the power play looms large as Gophers’ losses pile up.
And with defense-obsessed Alaska-Anchorage coming to town next weekend, Minnesota might have to take advantage of the few opportunities it receives.
“We were in control for two periods tonight,” Woog said. “Then we just did some things on the power play that was the death of us.”