What’s Wrong with the Minnesota Gophers?

Last season, the Minnesota Gophers went to the 2014 Frozen Four and  were a win away from being the national champions.  The Gophers finished the 2013-14 season with an impressive 28-7-3 record and returned a majority of their Frozen Four team that won the inaugural Big Ten Hockey Conference regular season title.

Coming into the 2014-15 season, Gopher fans were very confident about their favorite team’s chances. Many Gopher fans were making travel plans for the Frozen Four in Boston.

Minnesota Golden Gophers Defenseman Brady Skjei at the 2014 Frozen Four
Minnesota Golden Gophers Defenseman Brady Skjei at the 2014 Frozen Four (Josh Smith/THW)

Currently, the Gophers are (11-9-2, 2-2-2 B1G) and have gone 3-5-2 (.400) in their last 10 games. What’s even more puzzling, the Gophers have beaten two teams with a winning record (Boston College and Minnesota-Duluth).

Minnesota Gopher fans want to know what is wrong with the Gophers.

Back in November I said, “The Gophers are a very good hockey team, the stats don’t lie. I don’t remember any team winning a national title during October, November, and December. Despite losing to the 53rd ranked team in the Pairwise Rankings, the Gophers are sitting pretty.

I would like to rescind that statement.

I like many college hockey fans are waiting for the Gophers to snap out of their funk and start playing better.  I imagine that head coach Don Lucia is waiting too.

It’s kind of puzzling. On paper, the Gophers should be a better hockey team. They’ve returned most of the team that went to the Frozen Four last season and finished as the NCAA runner-up.

There’s too much talent on this team to be sitting at number 20 in the Pairwise Rankings and out of the NCAA tournament.

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After you watch these goals, you will see why the Gophers are losing. The Gophers are getting beat to loose pucks. They’re not strong on pucks. They’re losing battles in all three zones.

The Gophers are standing around watching the opposition make plays. They’re not going to the hard areas and they’re not a hard team to play against right now.

The Gophers are also turning over the puck deep in their own end. This causes the puck to end up in the back of their net. On the counter attack, they’re not getting the puck deep. Their zone entry has been brutal and their forecheck isn’t good.

That’s a recipe for disaster.

The Gophers All-American goaltender Adam Wilcox looks human. Wilcox is getting beat by shots at the top of the faceoff dots. That didn’t happen last season. I see no reason for this to be happening this season unless Wilcox is battling injuries.

The Gopher defense is leaving their goalie high and dry. The forwards aren’t doing a good job protecting the pucks. During the North Star College Cup, the Gophers were a half-step slow all weekend long. But it’s not just last weekend, the Gophers have been struggling during the last 14 games. That’s the reason the Gophers are currently ranked 20th in the Pairwise Rankings.

There’s still time to for the Gophers to get back on track, but time is running out.

Gophers travel to Madison

This week, the Gophers travel to Madison, Wisconsin, to play a very bad Wisconsin Badgers (2-15-3, 0-5-1 B1G). The Badgers have won one game in their last 10 (1-8-2). The Badgers just might be what the doctor has ordered for the Gophers.

It will be interesting to see if the Gophers turn their season around. They have a favorable schedule and consecutive series against two very bad hockey teams. They have eight of their last 14 games at home, so their fortunes could change.

Stay tuned, this is a work in progress.