Inconsistency drowns U again

Tim Nichols

DENVER — The Gophers men’s hockey team has been very vocal about raising the level of their game, and more specifically, their intensity and goal-scoring.
Minnesota fans better hope there’s a plan B.
The Gophers followed up a gutty 3-3 effort with a pathetic 5-0 loss in which Minnesota gave up four goals on the Pioneers’ first four shots. The four goals came within a 5:49 second span.
The Gophers’ loss was th-e first time they were shutout in 153 games, when Minnesota ran into Brian Lietza of St. Cloud State.
“It was probably a 10-minute game,” coach Doug Woog said. “It was a bizzarre start to the game. I knew they would come out a little bit better, and they did. But a couple of bouces, a soft goal.”
Minnesota has struggled recently with a lack of effort and consistency, and several players said they’re committed to turning things around.
But the Gophers’ play this weekend would be completely contrary to their statements just a few days ago in practice. After a decent effort on Saturday, Minnesota seemingly left its offensive sticks in Colorado Springs.
Their inexplicable no-show at McNichols Arena followed up an effort where Woog said, “We played like we needed it.”
Which was true for the most part. The Gophers rattled off 46 shots against Denver goaltender Stephen Wagner but could only manage to slip three into the back of the net.
Then something happened during the ride from Colorado Springs to Denver. Or maybe while they were sleeping?
The Gophers offensive offically died when the third period started Saturday night. Minnesota’s offense was all but D.O.A. when the team arrived in Denver.
At one point Minnesota just couldn’t throw it into the net. Literally. At 12:31 in the second period, Erik Wendell caught a pass in mid-air and tried to throw it into the Denver net. Wagner stopped the throw with no problems.
The Gophers also went 0-for-7 on the power play, which included 1:47 with a two-man advantage.
“It’s not good,” captain Wyatt Smith said. “If there has ever been a blow that really hurt us bad in the last two years, this is it.”
The tranformation from Saturday’s effort to Sunday’s comatose performance is something that’s, well, mind-boggling.
After Saturday’s tie, sophomore Erik Westrum said he though the Gophers had a complete effort.
“[In the] First period we came out with some jump in us,” Westrum said. “In the second period we were lucky to come out with a tie. But in the third, we pretty much dominated.”
Then, only 24 hours later, Smith along with the rest of the team is completely crestfallen.
“I don’t know,” Smith said. “Some other power must be against us. We are doing what we need to do, we’re just not scoring.”
With the collapses Minnesota has suffered in the last few months, one valid question that could be asked is how can they hope to hold their heads high for Mankato next weekend?
“We have to keep seeing each day as a new day,” Smith said. “I’m just speechless right now.”

SCORING SUMMARIES

SUNDAY
Gophers 0 0 0 — 0
Denver 4 0 1 — 5

FIRST PERIOD: DU — Newman (Morgan, Stauss), 4:06. DU — Pettinger (Comrie, Hacker), 6:01. DU — Morgan (Adams, Newman), 7:11. DU — Popadynetz (Cook, Ritson), 9:55.
SECOND PERIOD: no scoring
THIRD PERIOD: DU — Patterson (unassissted), ENG, 9:55.

SATURDAY
Gophers 2 1 0 0 — 3
Denver 1 2 0 0 — 3

FIRST PERIOD: DU — Newman (Engstrom, Adams), 4:45. Minn — Smith 12 (Westrum 10, Berg 14), PPG, 10:43. Minn — Senden 3 (Wendell 3 Pohl 4), 14:17.
SECOND PERIOD: DU — Patterson (Comrie, Adams), PPG, 7:13. Minn — Lyons 1 (Berg 15), 13:28. DU — Newman (Patterson), 15:50.
THIRD PERIOD: no scoring
OVERTIME: no scoring