U looks to avoid upset in first round

Michael Rand

The Gophers hockey team has two recent examples to draw upon as it prepares to avoid a letdown following an emotional weekend.
Minnesota could go the route of the Big Ten champion basketball team, which handled Indiana 75-72 three days after clinching the conference title.
Or, the team could follow the North Dakota hockey team’s lead. The Sioux, a week after clinching a share of the WCHA title, lost two games at Denver to enable Minnesota to gain a league co-championship.
Obviously, the Gophers know the direction they would prefer to head against Alaska-Anchorage in this weekend’s first round of the WCHA playoffs.
History dictates that Minnesota will have no problem stretching its five-game unbeaten streak to seven: The Gophers are 22-1 in first-round playoff games under Coach Doug Woog.
Members of the team know they must be cautious in the wake of two emotionally draining wins over Wisconsin last weekend. But they don’t foresee a flat performance.
“I don’t think there will be a letdown,” Gophers forward Mike Anderson said. “We only have seven or eight games left. There’s no reason to hold anything back.”
That sentiment was even stronger from senior Dan Woog, who knows that there is no margin for error at the end of his career.
“It’s too important,” Woog said. “The next time we wink, the season is going to be over.”
One difference between the Gophers hockey team and the other two teams to which they were compared, is that the team is entering the playoffs, whereas Minnesota’s basketball team and the UND hockey team were still playing regular season games.
The shift into the “second season” is one of the main reasons players aren’t fearful of a lackluster performance this weekend.
The Gophers confidence is further bolstered by a pair of lopsided wins at Alaska-Anchorage in early January.
The Seawolves (7-21-4 in league play) struggled to score goals this season, averaging only 2.3 per game. Part of that is because of UAA’s defensive style, which limited opponents to 3.4 goals per game — a figure below the league average.
The relatively low goal totals in Seawolves’ games led to several close contests. Fifteen of Alaska-Anchorage’s 21 losses came by two goals or fewer.
“We have to maintain a good tempo but also be patient,” Doug Woog said. “They’re good defensively, and they limit your opportunities.”
The plan of attack is simple: Keep moving, keep shooting and wear the Seawolves down.
“Their style will give us problems if we don’t move,” Anderson said. “But if we move around, it will work to our advantage.”
If UAA’s defensive wall crumbles, goalie Doug Teskey will be a very busy man. The sophomore netminder compiled the league’s fifth-best goals against average (3.08).
The Gophers offense has been clicking lately, particularly the second line. Ryan Kraft and Wyatt Smith scorched Wisconsin for seven goals and six assists. Linemate Erik Rasmussen did not register a point, but he did fire 13 shots on goal.
The success of that line, as well as solid play from the rest of the team, has the Gophers believing that they will take the same path as the basketball team.
“We’re not taking (Alaska-Anchorage) lightly, but we plan to take care of them on Friday and Saturday,” Anderson said. “Everyone’s talking about how good we’ve been playing, but we still haven’t peaked.”

Notes: Freshman Ben Clymer’s dizzy spells have cleared up, and he has been medically approved to return to the lineup. The team will make a decision before Friday’s game regarding his availability for this weekend’s series.