Men’s hockey team falls flat at Colorado College

Tim Nichols

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Following the Gophers men’s hockey team’s ugly 5-1 loss to No. 5 Colorado College on Friday, coach Doug Woog said he was confident that his team would turn it around and win on Saturday, keeping in mind a few changes.
“Assuming we will be able to play all of our players,” Woog said. “Assuming we’ll be able to play physical, assuming the power play will be better, and assuming the goaltending will be better.”
There is that old clichÇ about what assuming does, however.
The Gophers (9-15-6, 7-10-3 WCHA) were swept by the Tigers (19-8-1, 14-6-0 WCHA) in Colorado Springs by scores of 5-1 and 3-1. Colorado College extended its win streak against Minnesota to eight games.
“I’m really disappointed we didn’t get two points here because I thought we would,” a dejected Woog said Saturday. “Maybe it’s a lack of my head on my shoulders, but I’d thought we’d get two.”
One of several Tigers who helped bury Minnesota’s hopes was former Minnesota high school standout Scott Swanson.
The senior from Cottage Grove, Minn., did in the Gophers on the power play and at even strength, scoring three goals and two assists over the weekend.
“The coach stressed getting the puck to the net, and I got some good bounces tonight,” Swanson said. “Usually the goalie will make a save, or someone will score off my shot. But I’ll take it.”
But with all due respect to Swanson’s performance this weekend, Minnesota was its own worst enemy in the series.
The first period of Friday’s 5-1 loss was arguably the worst 20 minutes of hockey that Minnesota has played all year. The Gophers were outshot 19 to 3 in the period and seemed completely lackadaisical on the ice.
For a team that said it was concerned with playing every game as if it was a playoff, the defeat was a bitter disappointment.
“I can’t tell you why (we were flat),” Woog said. “Between dumb penalties and lackluster effort, that combination was just too much.”
The only positive for the Gophers was the play of back-up goaltender Rob LaRue, who relieved starter Adam Hauser midway through the second period and stopped all 13 shots he faced.
Sophomore Aaron Miskovich didn’t offer any explanations, just an analysis of Colorado College’s 2-for-6 performance on the power play.
“Our game plan was to stay out of the penalty box, but we got in a couple times,” Miskovich said. “They’re a good team and good on the power play. Then we were down three goals in the first, digging out of the hole early.”
Minnesota followed up its effort on Friday with a relatively solid performance on Saturday, before running out of gas in the third period.
Sudden scoring phenomenon Matt Leimbek put the Gophers ahead in the first period. But Scott Swanson made sure the lead didn’t last, tying up the game with 1:21 remaining in the first period.
The Tigers never panicked as the game remained tied at 1-1; they merely allowed their superior speed and experience take over until winger Justin Morrison put the game out of reach with a pair of third-period goals.
“I was kind of happy with it 1-1 in the third because the guys have to learn to be comfortable with a tight game in the third period,” Colorado College coach Don Lucia said.
Minnesota, meanwhile, is in no position to feel comfortable. Only eight games remain on the regular season schedule.
Without a late-season surge, the Gophers could repeat last season’s crash landing into — and out of — the WCHA tournament.
“We got to make the plays, but we just couldn’t,” Woog said. “What’s harder still is that we’ve played well enough to beat teams who are in a sense better than we are.
“It’s getting difficult when the same thing keeps happening.”

SCORING SUMMARIES

Saturday
Colorado College 1 0 2 — 3
Gophers 1 0 0 — 1
FIRST PERIOD: Minn — Leimbek 4 (Senden 5, Westrum 16), 5:00. CC — S. Swanson 9 (B. Swanson 30, D. Clark 22), 18:39.
SECOND PERIOD: No scoring.
THIRD PERIOD: CC — Morrison 11 (T. Peterson 6, Sanger 3), PPG, 13:39. CC — Morrison 12 (S. Swanson 24), ENG, 19:57.

Friday
Colorado College 3 2 0 — 5
Gophers 0 1 0 — 1
FIRST PERIOD: CC — D. Clark 17 (Heerema 15, Peters 14), 3:05. CC — Heerema 10 (S. Swanson 23, B. Swanson 29), PPG, 14:34. CC — S. Swanson 7 (Peters 15, D. Clark 21), PPG, 17:38.
SECOND PERIOD: CC — Morrison 10 (Cullen 16, Peters 16), 2:05. Minn — Miskovich 8 (Mills 8, Anderson 6), PPG, 8:58. CC — S. Swanson 8 (Johnson 4), 13:09.
THIRD PERIOD: No scoring.