The Golden Gopher men’s hockey team made it back to the Frozen Four this year. It was their first time in the Frozen Four since the 2014 season when they lost to Union in the National Championship game.Their opponent in the semifinals was none other than Minnesota State, the team that ended their season in the NCAA tournament last season, and to no surprise, the Gophers got spanked again.
A lot of fans seem to be surprised, but if you know anything about hockey you shouldn’t be. The Gophers are an extremely skilled and talented team, but they play a style that has no shot to win in the NCAA tournament.The Gophers play a high skilled transition game, so they can use their speed, which works on the big ice of 3M at Mariucci Arena against Big 10 teams that play a similar style. However, come playoff time, they have absolutely no shot.
Why? First off, the tournament is played on a North American sized ice sheet, so there is less space, meaning it is less conducive to a speed/transition game. Secondly, the teams outside the B1G are older, bigger and stronger than the Gophers.
Why the Gophers Can’t WinSo what happens when the Gophers try and play “their game” against teams like Minnesota State who are bigger and stronger? They get curb stomped.
The Gophers try and make plays off the rush, which is great, but they don’t have the necessary size or grit to retrieve the puck after the initial rush. If they don’t score, they end up one and done and the other team is coming right back at them again.
What the bigger teams, like Minnesota State, do so well is win battles and keep possession alive in the offensive zone. If there isn’t time and space to make a play off the rush, they chip it in and retrieve the puck by winning board battles. They work it low-to-high and take shots from the point with traffic in front. Then they retrieve it by winning battles and being physical and do it all over again. They just wear teams down by grinding them to a pulp.
When these types of teams play each other, the bigger, stronger team dominates and basically always wins, unless the smaller team gets super lucky. The Gopher game last night played out exactly like this. The Gophers had a few chances off the rush, but Minnesota State controlled the game throughout. The Gophers really didn’t stand a chance.
How do the Gophers Fix This?It’s a tough fix. I think changing the ice at Mariucci would be a great way to start, but I don’t think that idea is too popular. The one thing they could do is change the way they recruit. Don’t just recruit young high skilled guys. Get some bigger, stronger, older guys who have played a couple years in juniors. That will help them physically compete with the bigger teams outside the B1G like Minnesota State, Minnesota Duluth, North Dakota etc. Finally, they need to change the way they play and embrace a more physical possession style game.
I’m not an expert on anything, far from it actually. So maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about, but I know this team is super frustrating to watch. Hopefully they make some changes, so they can truly get back to being a perennial contender like the Gophers of old. I would love to enjoy Gopher Hockey again
Love It or List It
It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, but a lot has happened the past couple weeks so let’s take a look at what I love and what I hate.
The Masters is a blast to watch. It’s always a signal that summer is coming. Won’t be too long until I’m cursing more than normal and being absolutely miserable on the golf course myself, which is absolutely awesome! Also, how fucking great is it to have Tiger back? He really is just like all of us.
The Twins Making Moves
The Twins have been busy in this shortened offseason. Bringing in pitchers and signing Carlos Correa! I love it and am pumped to have them back! Dare we ask for a playoff win this year?
How do you not fucking love this guy! He’s awesome. I also love the Fleury and Middleton acquisitions by Billy G! The playoffs can’t come soon enough.
Speaking of Playoffs… TIMBERWOLVES
The TWolves are back in the postseason. 8:30 Tuesday night they play the Clippers in the play in tournament. Let’s hope Antman goes off again.
To be honest, I don’t hate too much right now. The only thing is well…
Gopher Hockey. They sure are frustrating.
Things are pretty good in Minnesota right now. Go Wolves, Wild and Twins! Get better Gophers!