DeBus fuming over U losses

Tim Klobuchar

GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Steve DeBus was one of the last players to trudge out of the Gophers locker room Friday night. Coach Doug Woog and a few players had already talked about their disappointment with another big-game failure, a 6-4 loss to now-WCHA leading North Dakota. But DeBus saved the worst for last.
The anger at another lackluster effort, not to mention having to face 51 shots in the loss, spilled out slowly.
Then came a brief outburst of profanity, which included two unprintable adjectives modifying an unprintable noun: “It’s the same (expletive), (expletive) (expletive) every weekend,” he said.
DeBus quickly apologized, but he made it obvious how he felt about the support he was getting. Friday’s game marked the fifth time in six games Minnesota had allowed four or more goals. The goalie is ultimately responsible for how many goals are scored, but in the last few series, DeBus has seen more and more shots he had no chance of stopping.
“We’ve relied on him too much all year,” junior Casey Hankinson said. “And we’ve gotten away with it too many times.”
Friday was the most glaring case of the team’s dependency on DeBus, but this time the Gophers didn’t get away with it. The Sioux had 41 shots on goal in the first two periods, 37 of which were saved by DeBus. Meanwhile, the Gophers had just 11 shots on North Dakota freshman goalie Aaron Schweitzer.
“He had a lot of shots,” Gophers junior Mike Crowley said of DeBus after Friday’s game. “He made some unbelievable saves and kept it closer than it should’ve been.”
The Gophers only trailed 4-2 entering the third period, and an early Dave Spehar goal cut the deficit to 4-3. But the last two Sioux goals, both by Adam Calder less than two minutes apart midway through the period, justified DeBus’ exasperation.
Calder’s first score came on the power play, putting the puck away on his third whack at it after DeBus stopped the first two — all with no Gophers players near Calder. His second came shortly after that when Matt Henderson threaded a long pass to him at the side of the net. Again, Calder was all alone, and he easily stuffed it past DeBus.
“That sixth goal,” said DeBus, “It’s goals like that. They can’t have that. The types of shots they’re getting, that can’t happen. It gets tiring and it gets very frustrating.”
When asked if the rest of the team was getting the message, DeBus said, “Some guys yes, some no. And if some guys get offended, that’s too bad.”
Whether it was DeBus’ message the Gophers listened to or not, they played better Saturday night — for two periods. To be more specific, for as long as DeBus held up.
DeBus stopped 25-of-26 shots through the first two periods, including a breakaway by Sioux superstar Jason Blake late in the second, and Minnesota had a 2-1 lead.
Blake was allowed another breakaway in the third, however, and this time beat DeBus to tie the game. North Dakota’s go-ahead goal was one of the few goals of the weekend that could be placed squarely on DeBus’ shoulders. He skated behind the net to play the puck, but was late getting back, and Henderson fired in a shot from the slot. The Sioux piled on three more goals after that.
His teammates still allowed too many odd-man rushes, but DeBus blamed himself for a few goals. The only Gophers player who had kept the team close all weekend had finally started to crumble as well.
“We had a couple of miscues,” DeBus said. “And a couple of them were stupid mistakes by me.”
Though his performance was far better on Friday night, DeBus’ importance to the team was better exemplified Saturday. He was the sole reason Minnesota led after two periods, but once he cracked under the relentless wave of Sioux forwards, everything caved in on Minnesota.
The Gophers unleashed some of their frustration after the game, engaging in some pushing and shoving matches with Sioux players near the North Dakota net. DeBus, meanwhile, stood near center ice — all alone.