Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Sweep Is Vital For Gopher Hockey

The Gopher hockey team has gone six weeks without recording a weekend sweep. In fact, the sweep of Alaska-Anchorage on October 30-November 1 is the only sweep recorded by the Gopher Six all season. Still, with this weekend's matchup in Houghton against Michigan Tech, a sweep must be viewed by Gopher observers as attainable and necessary.

Michigan Tech is predictably residing in last place in the WCHA this season with a 2-10-0 league record. The Huskies have been out-scored 56-23 this season and are coming off a weekend throttling courtesy of the Wisconsin Badgers. On home ice, Sconnie beat MTU by a combined score of 14-2. Coach Jamie Russell's crew has lost five straight and eight out of its last nine.

The Huskies are not without talent. Their top scorer, sophomore Brett Olson, has notched 7-8-15 in 14 games this season. Senior captain Malcolm Gwilliam (pictured right) has managed 6-6-12 in 12 games, and freshman defenseman Steven Seigo has picked up 1-9-10 from the blue line. It's admittedly thin in the scoring ranks after those three, but the Huskies have managed to secure production from some familiar sources all season long. 

A major issue for Michigan Tech has been in goal. Freshman Kevin Genoe has picked up the majority of duty in the nets and has managed a 2-7-0 mark in 11 games, with a respectable save percentage of .896 coupled with a less-respectable goals against average of 3.86. Sophomore Josh Robinson has managed some scary numbers in his seven games: 1-4-0 record, .856 Sv%, 5.06 GAA. For a team which averages fewer than two goals per game, MTU has needed its goaltenders to step up and steal games; something which has not occurred too often thus far.

Residing in the WCHA's basement is nothing new for Michigan Tech. Coach Russell managed a winning record in 2006-07 (18-17-5), but one has to go back to 1992-93's mark of 17-15-5 record to find the last occurrence of a better-than-.500 Michigan Tech team. Recruiting quality players to Michigan's Upper Peninsula has proven very difficult for Tech for quite a while and this year's crew appears to be no exception.

Still, the Gophers need only to look to last season for a reason not to overlook the Huskies in Houghton. Michigan Tech was on a 23-game winless streak within the conference until it beat the Gophers in overtime last March. The victory was the final one for MTU last season and the loss cost the Gophers a NCAA Tournament bid.

This season has proven very difficult for the Gophers. The team has had well-documented problems in Friday night games and has had much trouble sustaining effort game-to-game, weekend-to-weekend. The team has managed back-to-back weekends in which they played some of their worst games on Friday night only to rebound with solid efforts on Saturday. The Gophers are mired in the WCHA's second division, and any designs on a WCHA title, let alone first round playoff home ice advantage, must be started by a sweep of Michigan Tech this weekend.

If the Gophers come out dead on Friday night like they have done the last two weekends, they will lose to Tech. If they can channel their effort present last Saturday night in Mankato for both games, they'll sweep this weekend's series handily. It's not desperation time yet, but this is a series the Gophers should definitely sweep........and will.

Donny Puck Prediction: Gopher Sweep

1 comment:

  1. Hopefully you are correct. I don't know how many more clunkers like they have been playing I can sit through.