Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Gopher Week Questions: Will Patterson and the 1st Line Show Up?

To come away with points, Haula and Patterson better bring their A games

In preparation for the big series against UMTC at Amsoil Arena this weekend, I'll be answering one big question about either team every day leading up to Friday's puck drop. Today: Will the Gopher's 'stars' show up to play?

"I had a bunch [of chances]," he said. "That's what you try to do, is get chances. But sooner or later you have to put them in, especially as these games get bigger toward the end of the year. It is on me, it is on the first line. We've got to score some goals. To go scoreless two games, two big games against Anchorage is pretty bad for the first line. We got to pick it up."
-Jay Barriball, via Goal Gophers blog

The Gopher's top line of Hoeffel-Haula-Barriball failed to register a single point at home last weekend, against an Alaska-Anchorage squad that frankly sucks. Although they got plenty of shots, nothing found the back of the net, and that combination of ineptitude and misfortune has defined the Gopher's offense this season. Minnesota has scored 72 goals in 24 games this season, only doormats Alaska-Anchorage, Michigan Tech, and Bemidji State have scored less among teams in the WCHA.

The Gophers should not be able to match UMD's top 3-4 guys this weekend in terms of playmaking ability or goal scoring, but they have to get something from their supposed offensive leaders. If little-known Chris Kamal and the Seawolves' big, slow, lumbering defensemen can shut them down, then the Bulldogs' defense, which is ranked second in the WCHA in goals allowed, should be licking its chops.

Kent Patterson carried the Gophers to three points the last time these two teams met, stopping 78 of 82 shots. More than a handful of those 78 saves were spectacular, clutch stops, like denying Justin Fontaine's open, point-blank attempt to tie it in the last minute of Friday's game. I was there, and there was no denying it: Patterson was in the zone. He was Stalock-esque.

As luck would have it, Patterson's platoon partner in goal, Alex Kangas, suffered a season-ending injury in practice the day after Patterson's dominant performance. Since then he has started every game for the Gophers, and has performed well, sporting a 2.33 GAA and .933 save percentage since Kangas went down. The Gophers will need Patterson to continue to be solid, or better, to come away with more than a point on the weekend.

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