Saturday, December 29, 2007

Intro, A Not So "Classic" Performance

Greetings, readers!

My name is Joe Gigliotti. I have been given the oppurtunity to write about the Minnesota Golden Gophers Men's Hockey Team on this blog. I hope everyone finds my posts both insightful and entertaining! I'm happy to be a part of PJS!

Well, on Saturday evening, the Golden Gopher male hockey squad began their participation in the annual Dodge Holiday Classic at Mariucci Arena. The opponent for the Maroon and Gold for the night was the RIT Tigers, a school that's not exactly famous for their hockey. In turn, the Gophers hold one of the richest histories when it comes to college hockey. It was a battle of a school known for its hockey, against a school that's known for its technological abilities.

Despite grabbing a first period lead, the Minnesota Golden Gophers found themselves having to constantly make comeback after comeback in this Saturday evening affair against RIT. After going into the third period tied at 3, the unknown RIT Tigers grabbed a 4-3 lead exactly nine minutes into the final period, putting the Gophers away for good.

Breck High School product and Phoenix Coyote draft pick Blake Wheeler got the Maroon and Gold off on the right foot with a tally with just under eight minutes to go in the first period of play.

However, RIT came out roaring in the second period, beating Minnesota netminder Jeff Frazee twice before the five minute mark of the middle period of play.

After the quick pair of Tiger goals, Minnesota defenseman R.J. Anderson fired back with a marker of his own, just a little over two minutes after the RIT goals. The R.J. score was his third of the season.

In the later portion of the hockey game, the teams continued their "anything you can do I can do better" theme as the two schools traded off in scoring goals once again. RIT's Matt Smith shot and scored for his ninth goal of the year, followed by Jay Barriball scoring for Minnesota 16:27 into the second.

Finally, as the mid-way point of the thid period neared, RIT's Matt Smith struck once again, beating Jeff Frazee to give his squad a 4-3 lead, a lead that they would hang onto for the rest of the Satuday night clash.

With the loss, the Gophers have to now settle for participation in the third place game of the Dodge Holiday Classic. The struggling squad will battle it out with the Air Force Falcons, a team that nearly tripped up Minnesota in the NCAA's last season. The victorious Tigers will go head-to-head with the 7-4-5 Boston College Eagles for the Dodge Holiday Classic title. The Eagles advanced to the championship match with a convincing 8-2 win over the previously mentioned Falcons earlier Satuday.

The Gophers now stand at a 9-9-1 record for the year. While this team wasn't expected to dominate this season, one didn't think that they would be sitting at a mediocre .500 record at the mid-way point of the season.

Sure, Erik Johnson and Alex Goligoski went on to bigger (and arguably better) things, but a solid group of players were still present; a group that included Blake Wheeler, Ben Gordon, Jay Barriball, and a goaltender who certainly got his feet wet before this year, Jeff Frazee. Aside from Wheeler having a "pretty good" season, the rest of these guys, along with the rest of the team, haven't produced enough to call themselves contenders in the WCHA. Jeff Frazee can't be sitting at a dismal 6-7-0 record while he only has a freshman netminder in Alex Kangas behind him. Granted, Kangas has had his amazing moments and games, but he is still only 3-2-1 on the season as well. He's been good, but not out-of-this-world, and no one expected him to be, either. Frazee has to step up and find some consistency in his game. Jeff has to let his experience be shown in the crease so Kangas doesn't end up on the big stage so early in his collegiate career.

Despite all of this, though, the Gophs certainly weren't handed the greatest deck of cards through the first half of the season either. As mentioned above, Goligoski and Johnson left (along with Jimmy O'Brien), Vannelli and Briggs graduated, Stoa gets knocked out in the second game of the season against Michigan, Okposo bails out of nowhere, and Mikey Carman couldn't play for the first half the '07-'08 campaign. It should also be noted that Minnesota was without a few of its key components tonight (and will be without them tomorrow as well) due to their World Junior Championships participation).

So, while the Minny-Soda Gophs certainly have had a lot of punches to the gut this year, they've still had the tools to make some noise in the first half of this college hockey season. Unfortuately, that hasn't happened quite yet.

The Maroon and Gold will try to right the ship on Sunday evening against Air Force at Mariucci. It seems too early to call this contest a must win, but a win tomorrow night would be a tremendous stepping stone for Minnesota. After this weekend, the Gophs will play a pair against the Wayne State Warriors next Friday and Saturday, another opponent that Minnesota is fully capable of beating. A win against Air Force would put the confidence back in the Gophers and the faith back in the theory that they can easily beat Wayne State if they play like they're capable of playing.

The tests get bigger in less that two weeks as Minnesota begins a series with the dangerous St. Cloud State Huskies, a series that will see each team have a home game as the clash of these two Minnesota universities will be a home-and-home set.

That's all I wrote,

Joe Gigliotti


alex said...

Weee, now I can pretend to follow hockey before hopefully getting season tickets next year!

lurker said...

Hockey coverage. Finally. I look forward to your coverage Joe.