"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
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,
SEEN AND HEARD IN THE WCHA
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
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.
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.
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
FRIES AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BAG
• 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
• 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.
of sources were utilized in the compilation of this report.
Jess Myers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.