It was nice to get a sweep this weekend, no doubt.
But I don’t know how much you can take from this weekend aside from two wins that they had to have.
This was my first time seeing the team in person as I didn’t attend last night. Two things stick out very clearly though, in comparing this team to last year’s team.
1) This team has a lot of speed. I don’t recall Jake Hansen getting up and down the ice like this before. Condon was flying this weekend, and some freshman like Sam Warning really can move their feet.
2) Aggressiveness in terms of going to the net. I also don’t recall many Gophers in the past 3 – 4 years going to the net like this. As soon as the Gophers had puck possession in the offensive zone, almost the entire game, two Gophers were forcing their way to the slot.
I liked watching Ben Marshall also. He’s kind of their replacement for Aaron Ness. Now, Marshall doesn’t have nearly the quickness that Ness did, but Marshall is totally fearless and did some things that I never watched Ness do, namely follow the puck into the zone and actually cross over into the slot. He scored his first goal tonight, and it was simply hockey sense. Jake Hansen held the puck behind the net; Marshall saw it a mile away. He went to the net, Hansen’s pass got through traffic, and – boom – goal.
Their face-offs improved a bit over the course of the game but this is still an area that they’ll need to improve at big time.
The power play is going to take awhile to rebuild. The forwards and defensemen didn’t seem to be on the same page. Passes were not quick or that crisp. I still think that their penalty kill will be a strength all season long though. Having Serratore and Matson on that top PK unit is a huge plus for the Gophers.
Coach Lucia mentioned something afterwards that they are trying to get the kids to shoot more, especially Haula. Erik also mentioned it and it showed this weekend that he’s got a good wrist shot, especially his fast release. Those Finns are just not shoot-first players - but maybe the coaches can coax a few more goals out of him.
This is my first recap and live blog of the year. I’m working myself into a groove; hopefully they both get better quickly. Enough for tonight; it was nice to be back in the building. I hope there’s more excitement around the corner – scoring a few goals reminds you how loud it can get in here, even with a less than full crowd.