November 8, 2007
An Early-Season Hole at Minnesota

By Jess Myers

Former Minnesota and Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz had a unique take on how traditionally successful teams should handle a slump.

WCHA Notebook

Injuries, pro signings, and struggles scoring goals have led the Gophers and head coach Don Lucia to a slow start.

National TV Schedule

"Never tell your problems to anyone," Holtz once said. "Twenty percent of the people don't care, and the other eighty percent are glad you have them."

Off to their worst conference start in nearly 50 years, the folks within Minnesota's hockey program are taking a similar approach to life these days. There's little complaining among the Golden Gophers, and nary a wish for sympathy, internally or externally. Coach Don Lucia, a Notre Dame alum, acknowledges that similar to a bad football season for the Fighting Irish or a losing streak for the New York Yankees, there's a segment of the population that revels in the misfortune of teams like his, that are traditionally among the nation's best. Still, the early-season struggles have a sting to them.

"The real disappointing thing is that we're 0-4 in the league, because that's a big hole to climb out of," Lucia said. "But we're seeing how good the league is. We're 0-4. North Dakota was crowned by everyone before the season started and they're 2-2."

Added to the displeasure of being winless in WCHA play after four games is the fact that Minnesota's normally-reliable offense has been eerily quiet thus far, notching just four goals in those four conference losses. Lucia hasn't dealt with a lot of power outages since coming to Minnesota in the spring of 1999, so perhaps it's to be expected that his only foreseeable solution to the slump is simple hard work.

"Guys have to just keep plugging away," he said on Monday morning, while reviewing video of his team's 4-1 loss to Denver from the day before. Lucia said he winced just before picking up the phone, while watching one of his defensemen miss an open net on a power play. "I don't think it's any one guy. We're getting opportunities, but it's tough when you're coming out of a period down 2-1 and you're getting way more scoring chances than the other team."

Last Friday's 5-1 loss to Denver was a perfect example of the frustrating nature of Minnesota's struggles. At one point in the first period, the Gophers were out-shooting Denver 12-4, yet they emerged from the opening 20 minutes down 1-0, and trailed 5-0 before getting on the board. Instead of pointing to players with an M on their sweater who need to do more, Lucia says the current troubles have more to do with players who could be wearing that sweater, but are collecting a paycheck for their on-ice efforts.

"It's pretty obvious that we are feeling the effect of guys leaving," Lucia said, dropping names of would-be Gophers like Alex Goligoski, Jim O'Brien and Erik Johnson, who signed pro contracts over the summer. "We knew going in that this was a year it was going to catch up to us."

Add to those departures the loss of Ryan Stoa for the season to and injury, the fact that Nate Hagemo had to quit playing hockey due to recurring health problems, and the fact that Mike Carman will be out until next month with academic troubles. Still, the coach says there's no reason to panic two weeks before Thanksgiving, and says that with the non-conference and WCHA schedule they've played, a .500 record at this point wasn't unrealistic.

"We're not going to sit around feeling sorry for ourselves," Lucia said. "When I talked to the team the last time, I reminded them that we're 4-4, not 0-8."


Mavericks Looking Out For Others: While some college hockey programs are looking for new rinks, one WCHA program is working to help those people who struggle just to get a roof over their heads and a hot meal from time to time.

Last week, members of the Minnesota State hockey program donned aprons and grabbed order pads for a few hours, waiting tables at a North Mankato sports bar to raise money for charity. The Skaters as Waiters event featured several Mavericks waiting tables and bartending for three hours at Junker's Bar & Grill. All of the tips they made were donated to Campus Kitchen Mankato, a non-profit organization that helps prepare and deliver meals for families in the community.

"This is a chance for those that follow the Maverick men's hockey program to get to know us while having a great time and a great meal," said Mavericks junior defenseman Brian Kilburg, on of the coordinators of Skaters as Waiters. "But our primary focus is to assist and provide support for Campus Kitchen Mankato. We want to be involved in the community and this project is something we all thought would be appropriate and worthwhile."

The event also included a silent auction which including an autographed team stick, autographed game-worn pair of gloves, autographed sweater, tickets to a home game and other items.

Great Weekend Getaway
120x60 - Brand Red

Minnesota Duluth at Colorado College (Fri.-Sat.)
On their last trip to Colorado, two weeks ago, the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs got a split at Denver, to serve notice that there might be something worth noting to this club. When the Bulldogs visit Colorado College this weekend, they'll get another stiff test from a Tigers team that's scoring goals (six of them in North Dakota last weekend) and relishing the comforts of home after two tough weekends on the road.

While You're There: If you like your Mexican food processed and pretentious, do everything you can to avoid Taqueria La Unica. If, by contrast, you like huge portions, fresh ingredients, spicy old-world recipes and ice cold Mexican beer, do what you can to find this classic hole-in-the-wall. Try the enchiladas. The red sauce will change your life.

Stick Salute

Peter Mannino had notched some impressive accomplishments (like WCHA and NCAA titles) in his three-plus seasons between the pipes for Denver, but the Pioneer had never beaten Minnesota before last weekend. It's one thing to win a pair in Minneapolis. It's another thing to do so by stopping 68 of 70 shots.

Bench Minor

The two Twin Cities newspapers have done away with their weekly college hockey notebooks, at the same time as the powers-that-be at Fox Sports Net are dramatically reducing their coverage of Wisconsin games this season. We'd like to think that the major media outlets are realizing that they just can't compete with INCH, but in reality, the media coverage cutbacks, at a time when nationwide interest in the college game is growing, make little sense.

Campus Kitchen Mankato serves individuals and families in the Mankato-area who are affiliated with or use the services of Mankato Partners for Affordable Housing, The Salvation Army Men's Shelter, Welcome Inn, and Theresa House.


• That old saying about the best offense being a good defense is gospel in Madison these days. One reason for the Badgers' better-than-expected offensive output so far this season has been contributions from the blue line. After six games, Wisconsin defensemen have scored 10 of the team's 28 goals. That equals the number of goals scored by Badger defensemen in the entire 2006-07 season.

After getting the nod in goal for both of North Dakota's games last weekend, Jean-Philippe Lamoureux now has 32 consecutive starts for the Sioux. That moves him into a tie (with Peter Waselovich) for second place in the school's record book. If he starts the next nine games, Lamoureux will break the mark of 40 consecutive starts set by Al Finkelstein over two seasons in the early 1950s.

They only came away from last weekend's series at St. Cloud State with one WCHA standings point (via a 4-4 tie) but Alaska Anchorage could easily view the trip to central Minnesota as a sort of offensive breakout. In the Seawolves' previous nine games at the National Hockey Center, they'd scored just nine goals, total. In last weekend's two games, they scored seven, but still haven't won a game in St. Cloud. The Seawolves are now 0-28-2 all-time in the home of the Huskies.

After starting the season with a 4-0-2 mark at home, St. Cloud State will get re-acquainted with the world of planes, busses and hotels soon, spending the next six consecutive games on the road. First up is the "Battle of the Huskies" as St. Cloud State travels to face first-place Michigan Tech in Houghton. The Minnesota-based Huskies have had the edge in the series recently, going 8-1-1 in their last 10 meetings with their Michigan-based namesake.

A variety of sources were utilized in the compilation of this report. Jess Myers can be reached at