Sunday, January 31, 2010

Predictable Split Puts Pucksters in Deeper Hole

Alaska-Anchorage's Friday night woes are well-documented. The Seawolves are 0-6-0 in Friday night games on home ice this season, including Friday night's 7-4 loss to the Gophers. So, it should come as no surprise that the Seawolves turned things around and beat the Gophers 2-1 on Saturday night at the Sullivan Arena.

After Zach Budish's first period goal gave the Gophers a 1-0 lead, UAA's Josh Lunden scored less than a minute into the second period to tie the game. Kevin Clark's goal 14 minutes later - short-handed, nonetheless - gave the Seawolves a 2-1 lead they would not relinquish. After a listless third period in which UAA goaltender Jon Olthuis turned aside all seven shots, the Gophers left town with a split when anything other than a sweep would have been unacceptable.

Alex Kangas played much better in goal on Saturday night, stopping 22 of 24 UAA shots. Budish completed a four-point weekend with his goal, set up by Jordan Schroeder, who had a solid three-point weekend.

So, the Gophers are in a much bigger hole after Saturday's loss. The remain mired in seventh place, a full seven points out of the final first round home ice spot, and just one point ahead of eighth-place Alaska-Anchorage. The Gophers missed an opportunity to bury the Seawolves on Saturday night with the loss, given that the Gophers have two games in hand over UAA, and also missed an opportunity to pass North Dakota (in the process of being swept at home by Denver) for sixth place.

The Gophers are idle next weekend but face four very difficult series to close out the WCHA regular season. Out of the break, the Gophers head to Denver to take on the Pioneers (#2 in the PairWise), followed by a home series against Colorado College (#12 in the PairWise). A road series at UMD (#6 in the PairWise) is followed by a home matchup against Wisconsin (#3 in the PairWise) to close the regular season. Obviously, there are opportunities there for the Gophers to improve their #22 PairWise ranking. However, there are also plenty of opportunities for the Gophers to drop out of the rankings altogether.

There is no shame in losing on the road at Alaska-Anchorage. However, the loss Saturday night was a microcosm of the Gophers' inconsistency this season, which has seen them seemingly incapable of putting together solid efforts on consecutive nights. With the season on the line every game the rest of the way, one would have expected more from the squad Saturday night.

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