Today I figured the best thing I can do is spew out everything on my mind about the Gophers. I included the above video just as a reminder. It was a good game and a good example of exactly how the team will have to play to win. That's not the point of writing all this but to summarize ... the Seawolves will have to play like they did the last period and OT against DU and the last two periods against SCSU. That fire, that passion and that effort are required. The specifics of all that are for tomorrow. Today, it's all Gopher.
Quite simply the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers program and its fans can claim just about any "best of" title with regard to college hockey. They have the long and storied history dripping with tradition, success and respect. Every team that plays against them gets up for them. They play in the premier college hockey arena in the country. I doubt any real Gopher would go into the bathrooms at Mariucci to take a dump. Seriously, the joint is like a shrine to Gopher hockey. Shrine's are religious right? Okay then the Mariucci has got to be pretty much like a church to Gopher fans. Right on I say. If I was a Gopher fan I'd hit the head at my house before I headed out to the John.
Yeah ... it's a better rink than the Ralph. Why? Because it was built for hockey and nothing but hockey. The Ralph wasn't and they play hockey on a stupid NHL sized sheet. The college hockey crowd in Minnesota recognized that the game is better on an full sheet.
Not everything in Gopher-land is sunny and beautiful. With one of the most active outspoken fanbases in D1 they have their share of nutbags, rubes and diletantes that almost rival the huge number of St. Cloud morons. There's more than a few this past week or so busting on Gopher goaltender Alex Kangas. I thought that was hilarious. I think I watch just about see as many Gopher games as Seawolf games (certainly more than any other team). They aren't struggling because of their goaltender. They have some defensive weaknesses that have been getting exploited. There's lots of speculation that the backup will see time against the Seawolves because UAA is a "bottom tier" team. Not the brightest thing for a fan of the Gophers to say considering they have all of a 3 point lead on that "bottom tier" team (though they do have two games in hand).
Against UND, Mankato and Wisconsin the Gophers got beaten by opportunism and determination. They've been giving up odd man rushes in droves over the last few weeks. Lots of Gopher fans would put that problem on their blueliners. Nope. They are not getting the kind of backchecking they should be getting. The Gophers like to start fast and the longer that doesn't turn into scoring then the more frustration sets in and the Gopher forwards start pushing and pressing. And all too often they've been caught pressing. So all that said ... If I were Lucia, Kangas would be playing both nights and I'd tell him that yesterday.
I think that with all the hope we UAA fans have that our team will start taking fewer penalties that we should just forget about it. Even if the boys all suddenly wore halos they'd still get more calls against them. That isn't a bright sign for the weekend. Because there is almost never a Gopher team that can't move the puck around the offensive zone on a string during a power play. The Seawolves will need to limit good looks by the Gophers and always be aware of the back door opportunities. But if the Seawolves get penalized too much the Gophers are likely to make them pay. Conversely, the Seawolves will need to make the best of the fewer power play chances they're likely to get.
I think UAA is a much better hockey team than last year. I'm not convinced that Minnesota is. That doesn't automatically mean that the Seawolves leave Minneapolis with points though. The games of course are in the players hands. It's a matter of them taking it one puck challenge at a time, one shift at a time, one period at a time and one game at a time. Much laser-like focus on the task at hand is called for. If Seawolf players decide they are going to play the way they already know they are capable of playing then I'd think more than 2 points from this series isn't out of the realm of reasonable possibilities.