Checco is lucky minus the charms

by Michael Rand

When Nick Checco was asked about his first goal of the season at St. Cloud State a month ago, he pulled out a “lucky” green hockey stick blade from his travel bag as an explanation for his newfound good fortune.
Some of the superstitious senior’s teammates had given him the charm with the hopes that he would break out of his year-long drought, and he carried it with him on the 70-mile journey.
Naturally, when Checco scored the game-winning goal in Minnesota’s 3-2 overtime victory over Denver this weekend, reporters wanted to know what ritual or good-luck object he had used this time.
Surprisingly, the Bloomington Jefferson graduate hadn’t used anything.
“There were no superstitions this time,” Checco said. “I didn’t do anything different today. I guess I took a nap, but nothing major.”
Checco added another goal in Saturday’s 5-2 loss, meaning he tripled his season scoring output this weekend. Maybe doing nothing will become his latest superstition?
One trend that did continue for Checco this weekend was his knack for scoring big goals. Of his 32 career goals, nine have been game-winners.
A few Gophers players thought Monday’s practice was going to end after they finished a tiring 3-on-3 skating drill.
Unfortunately, it was just beginning.
Players huffed and puffed around the ice for several minutes more in an extra-long conditioning session. By the time practice was over, a passer-by may have thought that the locker room was full of 60-year-old chain smokers who had just completed a triathlon.
Saturday’s 5-2 loss was rumored to have had something to do with the extended skate-around.
Straight from the “did you ever wonder what might happen” department, comes this tidbit from Saturday night’s game.
Early in the third period, referee Mike Schmitt raised his arm to indicate a delayed penalty. Gophers goalie Steve DeBus, thinking the penalty was on Denver, raced for his bench so the team could send out an extra attacker.
At the time of the penalty, neither team had possession of the puck. Much to DeBus’ surprise, Schmitt blew the play dead when a Minnesota player touched it — signifying that the penalty was, in fact, against the Gophers.
Had a Pioneers player picked up the loose puck, an easy goal would have been the likely result.
Now that New England and Green Bay have advanced to Super Bowl XXXI on Jan. 26, some players on the Gophers hockey team have offered their predictions.
An extremely unscientific poll of three freshman on the team yielded these results:
Defenseman Mike Lyons, despite displaying an open hostility toward the Packers, thinks they will defeat the Patriots 36-21.
Forward Dave Spehar predicted eerily similar results, going with Green Bay by a 36-24 score. What’s with the 36? Four touchdowns, two field goals and a safety? It’s unclear.
Nate Miller likes New England in a 27-17 upset of two-touchdown favorite Green Bay. Miller took it a step further, breaking down the scores for each team. Curtis Martin will score two touchdowns and Terry Glenn will have one for the Patriots. The Packers will score on touchdowns by Edgar Bennett and Antonio Freeman and a field goal by Chris Jacke.
Miller also attacked Lyons’ prediction, saying, “All of those Green Bay fans on the third floor are getting in your head.”
Slap Shots
ù Gophers forward Ryan Kraft’s nine-game point streak ended on Saturday, while Spehar extended his point streak to seven games this weekend.
ù The Gophers are No. 5 in the latest Ratings Percentage Index rankings, which are used by the NCAA for selecting tournament teams.