Herald Journal Columns
Feb. 21, 2005, Herald Journal

What's happened to my Gopher hockey team?

By Aaron Schultz

No, say it ain’t so, Don Lucia, it just can’t be true.

Well, I’m afraid it is. The University of Minnesota Golden Gophers men’s hockey team is not very good right now.

A few weeks back, the Gophers were swept at home by Michigan Tech, the cellar dweller of the WCHA.

Then, after splitting at Wisconsin, the Gophers were nearly swept by Alaska-Anchorage, losing Friday night, and pulling out a tie Saturday.

If you don’t know, Alaska-Anchorage is usually the worst team in the league, right there with Michigan Tech year in and year out.

What made the Gophers’ weak effort against Alaska even worse, was the fact that I was at one of those games.

Yep, unlike when I’m watching them at home on the television, I was unable to turn the channel.

Cullen, my little brother, and myself made our way down to Mariucci Arena on the University of Minnesota Campus in Minneapolis for Friday (Feb. 11) night’s game.

Neither of us, while both huge fans of the Gophers, had ever attended a game at Mariucci.

I have been to a couple of games before, but those were at the Target Center during my college years.

See, back then, they moved the games against Wisconsin to the Target Center because it fit more people. There was no XCel Energy Center yet, and they could serve beer since it was off-campus.

Breaking away from my thoughts of how the Gophers are doing this year for just a minute, I would like to tell a little story of the first Gopher game I ever attended.

I got the tickets from my famous uncle Marc Sebora, who is from Wisconsin, and a huge Badger fan.

Well, this being my freshman year at Hamline University in St. Paul, I was extremely excited to get the tickets, and the game didn’t disappoint.

I brought Marcus Halverson, a fellow Gopher hockey fan, and a good friend from high school.

First thing I remember about the game is the fact that the Gophers smoked Wisconsin; I mean, it wasn’t even close.

While I don’t remember the score, I do remember it being a blow out for one reason.

That reason were the people that were sitting around us.

See, the tickets came from Uncle Marc, a Badger fan, and the tickets were in the Wisconsin section of the arena.

So, just imagine a couple of obnoxious 18-year olds giving all of the Wisconsin fans a lot of grief.

The night was a blast, and by the time the game had ended, there wasn’t a single Badger fan sitting around us.

Okay, that was the first time I attended a Gopher hockey game – now back to the last one.

As Cullen and myself walked into Mariucci, I just thought to myself how cool this was.

There was a big mural of Gopher hockey greats on the walls.

All around the arena there was memorabilia that I could have looked at for hours, but we needed to get some food and find our seats.

We were 15 rows up, at one end of the arena, behind a goal.

Sitting down, the first thing I noticed was that there was no net in front of us.

A few years back a kid died in an NHL game when a puck shoot over the glass, and struck her in the head.

Since then, the NHL has put up safety nets on both ends of all of their arenas.

Well, this was not the case at college arenas, and I took note right away.

Then, almost immediately, I heard the guys sitting right in front of us giving another guy pointers to keep his head up, since he was struck by a puck at the last game.

This started to make me a little nervous – were my reflexes good enough, was I going to able to get out of the way of the puck if it was headed right at me?

Those concerns quickly drifted away as the game started, and the view was so much better than it would have been looking through netting.

The game itself was pretty disappointing, as the Gophers just didn’t look like they were moving very well against an inferior team.

In the end, the Gophers had put nearly 60 shots on goal, but could only muster a couple of goals, and lost the game.

While the game sucked, the intermission entertainment was pretty good.

During the first intermission, there was a game between a group of mascots, and it was pretty cool.

Okay, so while the game was not that good, I still had a pretty good time, and would go back again in a heartbeat.

As for this season, the Gophers are still a pretty talented team, and Lucia is one of the best college hockey coaches in the country. They just need some goaltending.

Earlier in the year, when the Gophers were winning games right and left, goalie Kellen Briggs was playing well.

But, with Briggs hitting a tough stretch, the team has gone downhill.

If Briggs can pick it up down the stretch, I see no reason why the Gophers won’t, once again, make a run at a national title.

So, until next time, go Gophers!