Sunday, February 14, 2010

Gophers Waxed in Denver Finale

Denver made it four wins in as many opportunities against the Gophers in 2009-10 with a 5-1 domination on Saturday night, burying the Gophers in a crucial series in the fight for home ice in the WCHA first round playoffs and virtually dashing Minny's NCAA Tournament hopes.

Joe Colborne had a hat trick for the Pioneers and Marc Cheverie made 32 saves to pick up his fourth victory over Minnesota this season. Only Tony Lucia's goal with 39 seconds remaining in the game prevented Chevy from recording his third shutout against the Gophers this season.

Colborne lit the lamp with just over a minute remaining in the opening frame on the power play to give the Pios a 1-0 lead at the break. Anthony Maiani scored a minute into the second to put Denver on its way, and Colborne's second goal midway through the second salted things away. He completed the hat trick - short-handed - 2:16 into the third period to make it 4-0. Brian Gifford's power play tally made it 5-0. In all, DU was 3-9 on the power play Saturday night.

However, the story of the game was Cheverie, who notched his fourth win of the season against Minny. In four games, Chevy recorded two shutouts and stopped an incredible 136 of 138 shots for an amazing .986 save percentage.

So, the Gophers are now 13-15-2 overall and 8-12-2 in conference play. With a sub-.500 record, they are ineligible for a PairWise ranking and have but six games remaining in the regular season. If they run the table - highly unlikely against Colorado College, at UMD, and Wisconsin - they'll still be in a tough spot with 15 losses of gaining an at-large tournament bid. So, their best hope at this point is to tread water and somehow make a run in the WCHA playoffs. The only shot is to win the Final Five, and they'll have to do so from the play-in spot like UMD did last season, and UMD's win marked the first time that had ever been accomplished.

As I have written before, it has been a monumentally disappointing season for the Gophers. Lofty pre-season expectations have been dashed in inconsistency. It is clear that this team just isn't as good as the top teams in the league, and Denver looks many times better than the Gophs. Yes, Denver is the class of the league this season, but the Gophers seem like they're completely out of their league. This is hard to fathom when one looks at a talented Minnesota roster, but it's true.

The time for complaining is near as the season slips away. I think it's safe to begin writing the epitaph on an unacceptable season.

Elsewhere in the WCHA:

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