A Friday night 2-2 tie just doesn't feel good as a Gopher fan.
The Gophers (6-2-2, 3-2-2 WCHA) skated to a 2-2 tie with Wisconsin (1-4-2, 1-2-2 WCHA) tonight at Mariucci Arena in front of 10,079. But the only team celebrating after the game was the Badgers. Minnesota could not convert on two 5 minute power plays, and could only muster two goals on 43 shots thanks to a hearty Wisconsin defense, and a stellar game by Badger Sophomore goalkeeper Landon Peterson.
Here is what I saw.
Wilcox had another good game in goal. He was tested early and made a couple of great saves. But then saw long dry spells without a shot on goal. His tendency to want to play the puck is eventually going to cost him a goal. Wisconsin nearly scored halfway through the second period when Wilcox came out and shot the puck up the boards.
Special teams looked pretty good. The penalty killers shut out Wisconsin on all three of their power plays, and Seth Helgeson was particularly good. He was a monster in the corner, knocking the puck away with his long reach, and tying up the Badgers. And despite squandering the two 5 minute power plays, the Gophers moved the puck pretty well, and were able to keep it in the Wisconsin end. They had their chances, but couldn't buy a goal.
And speaking of Helgeson, he had one of his better games of the young season tonight. He was physical and steady on the blue line, something the Gophers have not had enough of this season.
Which leads me to….
Mike Reilly still looks a little shaky on D. Again, I don't want to pick on the kid, he's only a Freshman. But I thought we would have seen more improvement by now. And I never feel comfortable when he's out there on the power play. Obviously Head Coach Don Lucia see's the talent, but it seems like our Freshman Defense were a lot more steady last season. Another guy who looked a little lost out there at times was Justin Holl. He looked out of sorts at times playing forward, like he didn't know what to do with the puck when he got it. I know Lucia has said he wants his best players on the ice, but maybe it's time to put the experienced guys back on Defense, and solidify that part of their game?
Gophers were bunching up a lot in the first period, having all three forwards within arms length of each other on a number of occasions. Need to get at least one guy into open space to get the puck, assuming one of his teammates can come out of the scrum with it.
And on a side note, Bill Butters, an Assistant Coach with the University of Wisconsin left the Hockey program. Butters, a St. Paul native, played for the Gophers during the 1970-71 season before going on to an NHL career with the North Stars, among other teams.
Here are the post game comments:
Regarding not scoring on two major penalties…. "We gotta capitalize on those opportunities. Give Wisconsin credit, they blocked some shots, and they've got a good penalty kill. We've gotta bury those chances. We left a couple out there. Ten minutes on the power play without a goal is unacceptable"
Regarding only scoring two goals…. "I thought we did a good job the first two periods of getting in front of the goal. I don't know why, but we kind of got away from that in the third. It's important that we take away the goalies eyes. We've gotta get goals through rebounds or screens. Gotta get the puck to net and get those gritty goals. Something off a shin pad, or find a way to get traffic in front of their goalie, and get the puck in the back of the net"
Regarding teams struggle to score at even strength…. "You've gotta beat teams five on five. You can't rely on the power play. Two goals in the last three games while playing five on five isn't good. We should be getting a couple each game, on the low end"
Minnesota Head Coach Don Lucia:
Regarding his thoughts on the game…. "It was a hard fought game start to finish. I thought a couple of key points in the game were, when we scored, they had good shifts after that. We had a lot of power play time and had good looks, but their goaltender made some good saves, and they blocked some shots"
Regarding the power play…. "We had zone time. We've gotta find a way through when they pack it in. We've gotta take away the goaltenders eyes and get a puck through"
Regarding Wisconsin's poor record…. "They've had kind of a disjointed start with a couple of weeks off, but they haven't lost a road game, and they've got fifteen guys on their roster playing tonight who were in this building last year"
Regarding teams struggle to score at even strength…. "(Christian) Isackson had the puck on his stick, and just shot it wide. You've gotta make the play there. He scored in the first game of the year and hasn't scored since. We need some other guys to step forward and chip in now and then. We hit a couple pipes, but that's all part of it. You've gotta keep battling through that"
Regarding Adam Wilcox coming out to play the puck…. "Yeah, he likes to wander, but that's just part of his game. We don't want to take that away from him. He's pretty confident"
Wisconsin Head Coach Mike Eaves:
Regarding his thoughts on the game…. "We were resilient, and because of that we were able to squeeze out a point"
Regarding the officiating…. (after an extremely long pause) "You know, I have to watch video because I don't have the best seat in the house. And that's why I asked Greg Shepherd (Supervisor of Officials for the WCHA) to come down and discuss it. How's that for a diplomatic answer? I just saved myself a thousand dollars
The Gophers will take on Wisconsin in the second game of the series tomorrow night at Mariucci Arena. Game time is 8:00 PM (Central). The game will be broadcast on the Big Ten network, which is the reason for the later game time.
Tag(s): Other Gopher Sports