Power play a problem for Gophers

Tim Nichols

Success on the power play has been streaky at best for the Gophers men’s hockey team this season.
That trend continued in the Gophers’ pair of ties against Minnesota State.
On Friday night, the man-advantage was Minnesota’s saving grace as it went 3-for-5 on the power play to recover from four goals down in the third period and earn a tie. Saturday night, however, an 0-for-5 showing did the Gophers in as they settled for a tie in an otherwise winnable game.
“O-for-5 on the power play is nothing to be excited about,” coach Doug Woog said.
That is pretty much what happened on the power play on Saturday — nothing — after a Friday performance where everything seemed to go right.
One of the players who excelled on the power play was sophomore Erik Westrum, who scored three of his four points on Friday with a man advantage. It is his responsibility to serve as a quarterback on the power play unit.
“We switched some things up (on the power play unit),” Westrum said. “We used a little more of an umbrella up top.”
An umbrella is when three players form a curve in front of the net, giving all of them good shooting opportunities from the slot. It allows the offensive team to get off more shots and increase its scoring opportunities.
That strategy worked to the tune of three power play goals on 11 shots.
“We tried to find the man on the weak side a little more,” Woog said, “and it loosened them up.”
Before this weekend, the power play was connecting at a less than spectacular .156 percentage (19 for 122 overall).
Minnesota looked like the power play was back after Friday’s clinic, before it magically disappeared on Saturday. But Minnesota State coach Don Brose might have had a little something to do with it.
“We looked at the video tape,” Brose said. “And the kids just performed better.”
It’s old news that the Gophers offense has been on the fritz lately, and a shortage of scoring from the expected sources has Woog searching for answers.
“When you play with domination and still tie,” Woog said. “You take another look at yourself and say, ‘What caused that now?’
. “The younger kids didn’t make very good decisions on the power play. But they’ve got an attitude and they’re strong, those younger guys.”
With the Gophers’ lingering difficulties scoring at even strength and the power play having its struggles, goals might be even harder to come by in the upcoming weeks.
Red-hot North Dakota is up next, fresh off a road sweep of Colorado College, so the Gophers might want to reevaluate their strategy yet again.
“We had some chances but we didn’t finish them off,” Woog said. “We made some good plays and some good individual plays. But, hey, we didn’t score. And the guys that are supposed to score aren’t scoring.”