Saturday, October 31, 2009
Friday, October 30, 2009
The facts are indisputable:
- The Gophers are 0-3-1 in the season's first four games
- They have been shut out in all three losses
- The team was shut out at home last weekend by Denver's Marc Cheverie, and were shut out for an entire series for the first time since 1930
- The team has scored just three goals all season long
- Players who have suited-up for all four games and are yet to score a point include Jordan Schroeder, Mike Carman, Tony Lucia, Nico Sacchetti, Nick Leddy, Zach Budish, Cade Fairchild, and Aaron Ness
- The Gophers were left out of the USCHO.com and USA Today rankings altogether this week
The Alaska-Anchorage Seawolves come to town this weekend for a two-game set, and you had better believe that the Gophers will feel that this is almost a must-win series.
Now look, it's only the third weekend of conference play and the season is very young, but the Gophers are undoubtedly feeling pressure internally and externally. The team is quite aware that they have had plenty of scoring issues on the young season. This is also a team which, on paper, looked to be as talented as any Don Lucia has put on the ice in his tenure at Minnesota, stretching back to 1999.
However, goals have been hard to come by. The team generated 30 shots on goal in each of the two games of the Denver series, but could not find the back of the net. Plenty of shots were fired squarely into the crest of Cheverie, but the goaltender needs to get his fair share of credit as well. As hard as it may be for some impatient fans to understand, opponents are capable of making good plays from time to time.
There is no reason to panic right now. The opening weeks of the season were going to be tough no matter what. Losing to North Dakota and Denver is not something of which to be ashamed, although it would have been nice to score some goals. In fact, some are calling this year's Denver team the best George Gwozdecky-coached team, and this is a guy who won national championships in 2004 and 2005. Still, if the scoring issues persist after this weekend, then we may have a crisis of confidence on our hands.
Anchorage will be no pushover. They have perhaps the most experienced goaltending duo in the WCHA with senior Jon Olthuis and junior Bryce Christianson sharing the duties. Christianson is fresh off a tremendous performance in the Seawolves' 2-1 upset victory over North Dakota last Saturday night, turning aside 22 UND shots. The Seawolves are 3-3 on the young season, with victories over North Dakota, Mercyhurst, and RPI. They are balanced in the scoring department, with upperclassmen Kevin Clark (4-2-6), Tommy Grant (2-4-6), and Josh Lunden (2-2-4) leading the way. They'll play hard for 60 minutes each night and will not be intimidated by the Gophers.
Still, this is a series the Gophers should win. If nothing else, the team needs a big scoring night just to get some of the swagger back. It doesn't get much easier for the Maroon and Gold, as they must travel to Wisconsin next weekend, followed by home series against ranked teams Bemidji State and UMD before the College Hockey Showcase games at Michigan and Michigan State to close out the month of November. There are no easy games in that mix.
That's why this weekend's series is important. The Gophers may have some guys out of the lineup due to illness, but they'll be ready for UAA. They'd better be, if they don't want the season to get too far away early on.
Prediction: A much-needed Gopher sweep.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
- "1 TD in 8 quarters? They were never in the game for goodness sake. The people of the state of Minnesota deserve better. We need to demand excellence out of this once national power of a program. How can Iowa and Sconni have solid teams and the U of M has been average to horrible for the past 40 years? START GRAY NOW. Get rid of Weber and Brewster. Clearly none are good at their job.s (sic)." - "Big Sting"
- "Note to Joel Maturi: Resign immediately, but not before you fire your brilliant TE coach." - "Farmboy 7"
- "This is one big stinkin' football program. It gets worse every year. Add two more decks to that U. Stadium, put a roof on it, and give it to the Vikings....The Gophers certainly don't deserve a new stadium." - "Clel"
- "Please, please, PLEASE! Everyone e-mail Joel Maturi and tell him Brewster has to go. The fact that we were down by over 30 and Weber was still playing shows Brewster has a screw loose. Gray is the future and there was no reason he shouldn't have been in there more. Jon Gruden and Tony Dungy are viable options at head coach. If Gray doesn't start next week it could get ugly." - "Gophernate"
- "I wouldn't be surprised if the Gophers lose every remaining game....including South Dakota State." - "Hahahaha99"
And that's just a sampling.
Gopher coach Tim Brewster has been under considerable heat for the past few weeks. When the Gophers played in Happy Valley against Penn State (the Big Ten's leading defense) two weeks ago, Minny was shut out and held the ball on offense a mere 18 minutes. This past weekend, the Gophers played the league's second-ranked defense and were close for the first half, only to be steamrolled in the second half, mostly because Ohio State scored 24 points off of four Minnesota turnovers after the break. For this, according to many Gopher fans, Brewster needs to be fired.
Remember, Minnesota fired a coach in Glen Mason on New Year's Eve 2006 after an embarrassing Insight Bowl loss to Texas Tech after blowing a huge lead. The Gophers finished 6-7 that season with a very young football team. Still, Athletics Director Joel Maturi had seen enough. The fan base had increasingly grown weary of Mason. The knock was that he didn't win enough in the Big Ten (32-48) and couldn't consistently beat Wisconsin and Iowa. Also, the Gophers never finished with more than five conference wins in Mason's ten seasons, and never finished higher than fourth. Mason was viewed as perfect for turning around moribund programs, but could not adjust to game situations on Saturdays. He couldn't (or wouldn't) recruit Minnesota's top football talents, and was thought to be arrogant with the public and the media. His act had grown tired to many people, and Maturi clearly bowed to public pressure in dismissing Mason.
Maturi had dismissed basketball coach Dan Monson a few weeks prior and needed to hit a home run with the two new coaches. After a national search was conducted, and the names Lane Kiffin, David Gibbs, Gary Patterson, and others were thrown around, Maturi settled on Denver Broncos' assistant Tim Brewster as the new coach, and handed him a five-year deal. He had a reputation as a recruiting dynamo from his days at North Carolina and Texas under Mack Brown. Brewster was introduced to the public and wowed the student section at a Gopher basketball that night with the announcement that his staff was going to recruit the state hard and everywhere else for talent. It was also clear that Maturi wanted to change everything in the football program. There was no immediate reason to rebuild the program. The team had won six games the season prior and had plenty of talent returning to the team for 2007. A strong recruiting class secured by Mason was expected, headlined by some local talent (including Armstrong's David Gilreath, who ended up pulling his commitment after Mason's firing and signed with Wisconsin instead), and the team had an easier schedule for which to look forward. Still, Maturi clearly wanted to dismantle the way things had been done under Mason and build a new program in his - and Brewster's - image.
That meant the running-dominant offensive system would be replaced by a spread offense commanded by spread dynamo Mike Dunbar. The defense would be coordinated by Everett Withers, whom Brewster lauded as one of the game's up-and-coming coaching prospects, and would be "simplified" from the previous season's version. As spring practice rolled along, it was clear the 2007 team was going to be bad. Only a triple-OT victory over Miami (OH) saved the program from the indignity of a winless season, and the 1-11 squad allowed a whopping 440 points! Still, one cannot rebuild unless one tears down first!
The 2008 season was much-improved, thanks to a strong recruiting class and a maturing core. Withers was replaced by Ted Roof as DC, and the team allowed far fewer points. The Gophers started 7-1, and rumors of Brewster-to-the-NFL and other plum collegiate jobs abounded. There was plenty of talk among Gopher Nation to extend him now. Maturi resisted, and the team lost its final five games to finish 7-6. The schedule was going to be tougher in 2009, the team would replace Dunbar as OC with young Jedd Fisch, and Roof resigned for the DC job at Auburn and was replaced by Kevin Cosgrove, but expectations were high for the first year in their own stadium.
The 2009 recruiting class was one of the best and most athletic ever to come to Minnesota. Brewster has acquitted himself quite well on the recruiting trail and Minnesota high school coaches say Brewster and his staff have made strong inroads with the coaches in the effort to keep the top players home. Not all of them stay here. Cretin WR Michael Floyd, for example, opted for Notre Dame before the 2008 season. Still, Brewster was there in the end, which was not a place the Gophers typically found themselves in the past.
So, fans are looking to make another coaching change after only two recruiting classes from Brewster? That is beyond absurd reasoning. Unlike the NFL, where the draft, free agency, and salary cap can make the rebuilding process faster, the collegiate ranks clearly take time. New regimes mean new systems, styles, and recruiting efforts, not to mention working with 18-22-year-old kids along the way. Brewster deserves the opportunity to serve out the length of his contract to see if his recruits can cut the mustard at the collegiate ranks or at least at the U. The jury is still out whether or not Brewster is a good technical coach, but he has shown an ability to recruit well.
Another reason for him to return is that this program hasn't exactly been stellar in the past. The Gophers won 10 games in 2003, and that was the first time since 1905 that this had been accomplished. The fans in the comments section point to the "once national powerhouse" tradition at the U, but that was in the 40's and early 60's. Sophomore players on the last national championship squad of 1960 would be almost 70 years old today. Coach Murray Warmath is often viewed as a deity in these parts today, but fans forget that he was run out of town by an angry fan base after a combined 11-18-2 mark in his final three seasons at the U, concluding in 1971. The successors since Warmath's "resignation" after 18 seasons, two Rose Bowls, and a 87-78-7 (65-57-4 in the conference) record have not exactly been stellar (Big Ten Records in parentheses):
- Cal Stoll, 1972-1978 = 39-39 (27-29)
- Joe Salem, 1979-1983 = 19-35-1 (12-32-1)
- Lou Holtz, 1984-1985 = 10-12 (7-10)
- John Gutekunst, 1985-1991 = 29-37-2 (18-28-2)
- Jim Wacker, 1992-1996 = 16-39 (8-32)
- Glen Mason, 1997-2006 = 64-57 (32-48)
- Tim Brewster, 2007-Present = 12-19 (5-14)
So, there you have it, Gopher Nation....In 38 seasons of football, the Gophers have not had a coach post a career conference record over the .500 mark. Only Mason has managed to breach the .50 mark, and his critics are quick to point out that was courtesy of a cake non-conference schedule. Where the heck are the "Glory Days" everyone speaks about? What tradition are we looking to recapture?
I've heard a lot of comparisons of Brewster to Wacker, but to compare the football situations of both men is ridiculous. Yes, they both have outgoing personalities compared to Mason's somewhat dour persona, but Brewster has proven to be a far superior recruiter and the talent on this year's team far surpasses anything on any of the Wacker teams.
The bottom line is that this program has absolutely sucked for a very long time, period. That the public has created unrealistic expectations on its football team to try to restore some sort of winning tradition that was last present when the current crop of 65-year-olds was in high school is laughable. Look, nobody wants a winning football program more than I. However, the public and administration has to be willing to be patient with a coaching staff and give it time before clamoring to make wholesale changes in search of a quick fix.
I remain a huge Mason supporter, and I believe if he were still the Gophers' coach, the team would be in far better shape than the current lot. If someone with the recruiting ability of Brewster (or even Brewster himself) would have come on to Mason's staff, the team would be among the top teams in the Big Ten and would at least compete with Wisconsin and Iowa. However, the public wanted "Mase" gone and Maturi obliged and hired Brewster to change everything. He needs more than three years to work his magic, and the public needs to get off his back.
Don't waste your time arguing with me about taxpayer-financed stadiums and the like. I always maintained that a football stadium would never solve the U's football problems overnight, and that winning was the best cure. However, the sparkling new stadium will only serve to level the playing field on the recruiting trail against the likes of Iowa and Wisconsin. If the Gophers can build a winning tradition in their new digs, complete with a hostile atmosphere from the fans, the recruits will notice. Brewster can lay it on thick in recruits' living rooms, so no doubt this is being done repeatedly.
The Gophers need more time with this regime in order to get better. If Maturi bows to public pressure and cans Brewster after this season or next, the clock will start all over with someone else, and the road to respectability will get longer.
Post-Script: By the way, Tony Dungy is not coming here to coach. I repeat, Tony Dungy is not coming here to coach, so get it out of your heads. Even if he did, how is a guy who hasn't coached at the collegiate level going to be the answer? How will the U pay him? Forget it - it's not happening.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
- 1999-00: 5-8-1 (20-19-2)
- 2000-01: 9-3-2 (27-13-2)
- 2001-02: 11-1-2 (32-8-4) - WON NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP
- 2002-03: 7-3-4 (28-8-9) - WON NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP
- 2003-04: 6-7-1 (27-14-3)
- 2004-05: 10-3-0 (28-15-1)
- 2005-06: 7-3-4 (27-9-5)
- 2006-07: 12-1-2 (31-10-3)
- 2007-08: 7-7-1 (19-17-9)
- 2008-09: 7-2-5 (17-13-7)
- 2009-10: 0-3-1 (??)
Note the two national titles there in the mix under Lucia. The Gophers hadn't won a title since 1979 until Lucia arrived on campus in 1999.
The point of the listing was that the strongest starts did not always equate to strong finishes. Last year's team looked great out of the gate but looked like they were skating in sand in January and February. It's important to get off to good starts, especially in league play, but as North Dakota can attest, it's how a team finishes which determines success.
The Gophers have a ton of talent on this year's squad and will get the goal-scoring ability back. To get shut out in three of four games is tough to swallow, but nobody has been scoring on Eidsness or Cheverie all season long. The Gophers have had their chances, firing 30 shots on Cheverie each night, but nothing found the back of the twine. No sensible hockey observer believes Jordan Schroeder will be scoreless all season long. Also among the scoreless are Cade Fairchild, Lucia, Aaron Ness, Mike Carman, Nick Leddy, and Zach Budish. Eventually, that will turn around.
The fan base needs to let off Lucia a bit. Four games have been played and there is plenty of action to go. Alaska-Anchorage comes to town this coming weekend. If Jon Olthuis or Bryce Christianson shut the Gophers out on consecutive games next weekend, maybe the fans will have something to their argument. For now, however, it's just pure emotion and animalistic instinct fueling the anti-Gopher and anti-Lucia fire.
Let's give the 2009-10 season a bit more time before we make determinations on whether this team is a bust or not.
Note: Check out my WCHA Examiner home page for a weekend recap to appear Monday morning.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
- 509 yards allowed to the Big Ten's 10th-ranked offense
- The Gophers were 1-10 on third down offensive chances; defensively, the Gophers allowed OSU to convert on 7-14
- Ohio State rushed for 270 yards with two freshmen runners carrying the load in the second half
- Eric Decker sprained an ankle in the first quarter and spent the second half on crutches
- Adam Weber was awful again: 10-23 with 2 INTs
- Five passes were dropped by the Gophers in the first half alone
- In the first half, the Gophers had almost 60 yards in penalties
- Minnesota turned the ball over four times (twice inside their own 20), which resulted in 24 Ohio State points
- The Gophers have won only twice at Ohio State since World War II.
The Gophers were the perfect elixir for Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor's pains. The maligned sophomore rushed for a game-high 104 yards and a TD on 15 carries, and also was 13-25 for 239 yards passing the ball. He hit on two TDs against one interception, one week after throwing two INTs and losing two fumbles in a loss to Purdue.
Weber's struggles continued against the Buckeyes. His 10-23 performance for only 112 yards continues a string of three-consecutive sub-par games for the three-year starter. Yes, the Gopher receivers dropped five balls and Decker was not a factor due to injury. Yes, the offensive line protection was not great, again. However, the guy simply cannot make plays, as evidenced by the team's pathetic 1-10 third down conversion stats. The offense looked completely out of sync again on Saturday - against a great OSU defense, mind you.
MarQueis Gray did get more action in this game than any other previous one. The talented freshman rushed 11 times for 81 yards, and engineered the team's lone score at the end of the game, thanks in part to a 5-6, 51 yard performance throwing the ball. His 11-yard pass to Stoudermire was the team's first score in almost nine quarters and was the only protracted drive all day (7 plays, 78 yards).
This sets up an interesting decision for coach Tim Brewster. Clearly, the game was out of reach on the final drive, but the offense did move under Gray. The QB showed play-making ability most of the day and gave OSU a different look. Will Brewster finally bite the bullet and make the QB switch before next weekend's contest against Michigan State at TCF Bank Stadium? Or, will the Gophers continue to sink in quicksand with Weber?
Coming up this week....Defending Tim Brewster. Get ready for this one - most likely up on Monday or Tuesday!
Friday, October 23, 2009
With a sweep, DU coach George Gwozdecky will hit the 350-win mark at Denver,as well as the overall 500-win mark in his brilliant coaching career spanning 24 seasons at Wisconsin-River Falls, Miami (OH) and Denver.
More importantly, the Pioneers are anxious to enter WCHA play after two tough non-conference tests. DU opened the season at home against Vermont, which pushed eventual NCAA Champion Boston University to the brink in the East Regional last spring. After a split with the Catamounts, DU headed to Columbus to take on fellow 2009 NCAA Tournament team Ohio State. Following two splits in successive weekends, the Pioneers are 2-2-0 heading into Minneapolis.
Denver was a consensus favorite to win the WCHA based on many polls (including yours truly) and has a roster loaded with talent. Junior goaltender Marc Cheverie looks to build upon his brilliant sophomore season which saw the Nova Scotia native start all 40 games, pick up four shutouts, and be named to the WCHA All-Star second team. A consensus pre-season pick for WCHA Defensive Player of the Year, Cheverie has started two games this season and picked up wins both times, including a 39-save shutout of Ohio State last Thursday.
Senior forwards Rhett Rakhshani and Tyler Ruegesgger return to provide leadership up front and both are off to strong starts in 2009-10. Rakhshani has posted 1-4-5, while Ruegsegger has compiled 2-2-4 to lead the Pioneers in scoring on the young season. Both were prolific scorers for last year's WCHA regular season runners-up, with Rakhshani notching 15-22-37 and Ruegsegger chipping-in with 11-11-22. In all, ten Pioneers topped the 20-point mark in scoring last season, and eight return to this year's team.
Among the returnees, sophomore defenseman Patrick Wiercioch looks to build upon a brilliant freshman season in which he notched 12-23-35 on the DU blueline. Fellow sophomores Joe Colborne (10-21-31) and Luke Salazar (15-10-25) also had strong freshman seasons and are poised for fine follow-ups. Colborne is doubtful this weekend with a broken left index finger. Add in this year's strong freshman class, highlighted by NHL draftees Drew Shore, Matt Donovan and William Wrenn, and the Pioneers are loaded and balanced.
The Gophers are coming off a weekend in which they played one very poor game and one very good game, and came away with one point. North Dakota dominated Friday night 4-0 and the teams played to a 3-3 tie on Saturday. The goaltending duo of Alex Kangas and Kent Patterson split the starts last weekend, and it remains to be seen whether or not coach Don Lucia keeps this rotation going further into the regular season.
Last season, the two teams met only twice, with the Gophers winning 5-2 in the series opener before the Pioneers took the second game 4-0.
Look for the Gophers to play better at home this weekend against Denver than they did on the road last weekend in Grand Forks. They can ill-afford to make mistakes against the Pioneers. The DU power play was one of the nation's best last season, and with all the talent up front, they'll be gunning for the net again this season. As with any George Gwozdecky team, they'll be well-coached, meaning they will limit their mistakes.
The Gophers had their share of mistakes last weekend in the Forks. Lucia juggled lines and alternated goaltenders, and the team responded with a much better effort on Saturday. Still, if this team is to live up to its potential this season, they have to put two nights together each weekend. This weekend will be a good test for this squad and will be a sign of whether or not this team will compete for the top spot this season.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
When the Gophers landed the 6-4, 222 lb. QB out of Indianapolis in 2008, it was thought the M&G had one of the nation's best dual-threat quarterbacks coming out of high school. Rivals.com ranked Gray as the third-ranked dual-option QB in the 2008 class and the #1 player in the state of Indiana the same year. He signed with Minny in 2008 but was a partial-qualifier because of academic concerns. However, he has been a member of the 2009 team in good standing.
Despite claims from coach Tim Brewster that the offense would find ways to work Gray into the rotation, the Gophers have largely used the dual-threat QB as a decoy split out wide as a receiver or handing off to a running back most of the time. Through the season's first seven games, Gray has attempted one pass (0-1) and rushed the ball 10 times for 55 yards. He has caught a TD pass, which was his only reception and covered seven yards. There appears to be little effort to get Gray involved in the offense at all.
Meanwhile, three-year starting QB Adam Weber appears to be regressing. The junior is 106-190 for 1,325 yards, 6 TD, and 9 interceptions. 47 completions and 731 yards (and 5 TDs) have gone to WR Eric Decker. That leaves 594 yards to have been distributed to the other receivers in the Minnesota offense. Weber threw for almost 3,000 yards and 24 TDs as a freshman on a 1-11 Gopher team, and was improved as a sophomore last season (15 TD, 8 INT). However, he has looked lost at times in 2009.
Despite claims of a dynamic and complicated offense under first-year coordinator Jedd Fisch, the Gophers' offense looks to be much of the same to prior seasons'. That is, it runs completely through Eric Decker. Now, Decker may just be the best receiver in college football (note, I said best RECEIVER, not best pro prospect). However, defenses know that Weber will lock in on Decker the vast majority of the time, and it's easy to adjust if you know where the ball is going. Couple that with an unwillingness to commit to a running game - or at least to running off tackle - and the Gophers are quickly deemed predictable.
The offense was pitiful last weekend at Penn State, managing just 138 total yards (42 on one Decker reception in the fourth quarter) while holding the ball for just over 18 minutes the entire game. Weber was awful, going 10-22 for 101 yards and a pick, but the entire until was bad. Compounding on a problem I have been discussing privately and which the Star Tribune's Kent Youngblood explored this week has been the team's poor performance on third down. Against Penn State last week, the Gophers' offense was just 3-11, sitting in third-and-long situations just about every time.
The offense needs a kick-start, and Gray can provide it. At bare minimum, work him into the team's third down package. The Gopher teams of the last ten years were successful with QBs Billy Cockerham (pictured right) and Asad Abdul-Khaliq emerging as playmakers. Weber is not a playmaking type of quarterback, and that eases the preparation for the defenses. By putting Gray into the package and letting him do something but hand off, the Gophers will confuse the defenses at bare minimum and begin to convert more efficiently on third down. However, Gopher fans have no idea whether or not Gray is a playmaking type of QB because the team has not allowed him to develop at all. Personally, I would favor putting Gray in as the starter and seeing how he does - today.
They will face an erratic yet big-play threat in Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor this weekend, so the Gophers will see what might have been if they had utilized Gray more effectively.
The bottom line is that Weber is not getting the job done for the Gophers and the offense needs a change. The team has alternated running backs all season long. Why don't they at least try to mix up the QB situation a bit instead of allowing their dual-threat QB collect dust on the bench? It's time for a change - free MarQueis Gray!
Monday, October 19, 2009
After the nightmarish performance at the Ralph Englestad Arena last season in which the Gophers were swept away and out-scored 12-4, Minnesota was looking for a better start in Grand Forks this weekend. It looked good for about five minutes of the first period, and then it morphed into something previously seen last season.
UND out-shot Minnesota 43-22 and took the opener 4-0 on Friday night before a raucous sellout crowd of almost 12,000. Brad Eidsness turned aside all 22 Gopher shots, but few shots were quality scoring opportunities. On the other end of the ice, Minnesota goalie Alex Kangas made 39 saves, many of them spectacular, and kept the game from being an even bigger embarrassment. The game slipped away from the Gophers in the second period, which saw UND out-shoot Minnesota 19-9 and completely control the play.
Jason Gregoire, Derrick LaPoint, Chay Genoway, and Mario Lamoureaux each scored for UND, and 11 different Sioux picked up points in the balanced attack. The Sioux scored twice on the power play and once short-handed, as the Gophers' special teams really struggled in the opener.
North Dakota simply out-skated, out-hustled, out-shot, and out-manned Minnesota in the opener. The message boards were alive after Friday's game, calling for coach Don Lucia's head.
Thankfully, the Gophers played better in Saturday's game. They took an early lead on Jay Barriball's goal, only to see it evaporate on two Genoway power play goals. A nice goal by Mike Hoeffel tied the score in the second period, and Hoeffel's tally midway in the third period gave the Gophers an lead. However, defenseman Jake Marto's long shot eluded goaltender Kent Patterson and gave the Sioux a 3-3 tie. The game's final 10 minutes (including OT) features some solid action with scoring opportunities on both ends, but both teams had to be satisfied with one point.
The Gophers were much better in Saturday's game. However, they were still out-shot 34-19 in the second game, making the UND advantage 77-41 in the two-game series. Jordan Schroeder was held to three shots for the entire weekend. The penalty-killers played to a 67% success rate this weekend, as the Sioux were 2-6 both nights. Considering the stark stat disadvantages, it's fortunate the Gophers came away from Grand Forks with any points.
The message-boarders can take it easy on Lucia and the Gophers for a while at least. The Gophers were coming off an off-week and only played one exhibition game to tune up for a trip to Grand Forks, The Sioux, on the other hand, played a non-conference tune-up series at home the weekend prior. Now, it's understandable for fans to be a bit upset about the perceived lack of effort on Friday night, but it was the first game, for crying out loud! Have our expectations become that much more unreasonable?
The road gets no easier for the Gophers next weekend. They return home, but must face preseason consensus WCHA champion Denver. The Pioneers are coming off non-conference splits against Vermont and Ohio State - both tournament teams from a season ago - and will be a tough test for the Gophers. If the M&G plays like it did Saturday in Grand Forks for the upcoming series, they'll be fine.
My Examiner weekend recap is posted here. Check that page often during the week as we prepare for the league's first full slate of conference play next weekend.