Archive for January, 2011

Kangas’ Gopher career in jeopardy

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

According to Roman Augustoviz of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Minnesota senior goaltender Alex Kangas re-injured himself in practice Monday — an injury which has now put his season, and collegiate career, in jeopardy.

Kangas last appeared in a game Dec. 3 at Minnesota State. He sustained the injury in practice Dec. 11 — a day the Gophers were originally scheduled to play Minnesota Duluth. The game was moved back, however because of a snowstorm in the Twin Cities.

Gophers coach Don Lucia has yet to confirm the exact location and nature of the injury, but has hinted that surgery may now be necessary to correct the issue. A source close to Kangas has told Augustoviz that Kangas is suffering from a hip injury.

Kent Patterson has filled in full time with Kangas on the shelf. His .917 save percentage is fifth in the WCHA, so there is no immediate concern about a drop off in play. Both Patterson’s save percentage and goals against average have been significantly better than Kangas’ this season.

Where the Gophers need to be concerned is in regards to their depth. With Kangas seemingly unavailable, Jake Kremer assumes the No. 2 hole behind Patterson. Kremer, a junior from Eden Prairie, Minn., has never played in game that counts.

More importantly, with only two healthy goaltenders, the Gophers may be forced to significantly adjust their practice schedule. Most schools carry a third goaltender just for practice purposes. This injury may force Minnesota to get creative in that quest — by either shortening practices for their goaltenders, giving Patterson days off, or by recruiting a goaltender off the school’s club team — which other teams have done in the past.

Minnesota is locked in a battle with Wisconsin and others for the final home ice slot in the WCHA playoffs. The Gophers head to Grand Forks this weekend for a series against No. 2 North Dakota, with Minnesota on the verge of dropping out of the Pairwise picture altogether. The Gophers have missed the last two NCAA Tournaments and the seat of Lucia’s office chair has grown increasingly warm over the last 24 months.

Minnesota State: The time is now

Monday, January 10th, 2011

Last week, we here at College Hockey News named Minnesota State as our team of the week. And it was well deserved — the Mavericks were coming off a solid weekend in which they defeated a top-12 team in Notre Dame and a dominating win over Brown.

This past weekend, MSU returned home and didn’t play very well — but the fact is, they won twice, extending their winning streak to four games. They’ve now won 8 of 10 and have put themselves in the thick of the Pairwise discussion. Even the two games they lost — they were swept at home by North Dakota before Christmas — they were extremely competitive in. They blew a 2-0 lead in the first game against the Fighting Sioux.

Unfortunately, “almost wins” don’t count come March, and a ninth place finish in the WCHA isn’t going to be enough to get the Mavericks to their first NCAA Tournament since 2003. Every team in the league has played half its league schedule, no more, no less. With 14 games remaining on the schedule, the time is now for Minnesota State to take what it has learned about itself in nonconference play, where MSU has gone 6-0-2 this season, and apply it to league games.

That starts this weekend in Mankato where the Mavs play host to Denver. The Pioneers are one of three teams tied for fourth in the Pairwise rankings. A three or four point weekend would likely move the Mavericks from Pairwise afterthought to Pairwise bubble. There are plenty of opportunities for MSU to make some noise here in the second half. With seven series remaining, four come against teams ranked ahead of them in the Pairwise.

Wins over American International and Massachusetts-Lowell aren’t going to cut it anymore. For MSU, now it’s time to show what kind of team they really are.