MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The University of Minnesota men’s hockey team heads to Michigan this weekend ranked No. 9 in the country, which is a bit disappointing. The Gophers started the season ranked No. 1.

Now, they’re trying to find a rhythm to what’s otherwise been an inconsistent season. They looked unbeatable early, but are now 10-5-1 heading into a series against the Wolverines that’s never easy.

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“For us it’s kind of starting the second half of our season with Big Ten Conference play,” Hudson Fasching said. “We’re trying to build momentum towards the end of the year and build towards the conference championship.”

That is what the Gophers hockey team is hoping for, that a new year brings a renewed energy in a season that has been up and down. After all, they do have the inaugural Big Ten regular season title to defend.

“Once we clean up our game, our neutral zone is killing us right now so once we clean that up we’ll be much better,” senior Kyle Rau said.

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The frustration for the Gophers comes from last season compared to this season. They were national runners-up a year ago and yet many believe this year’s team has more talent than last year’s. So what’s missing?

Flat out, they need to get better. They made need to shake things up to get there because last  year they had goal-scorers. This season, they’ve got goal-scorers who are struggling to score goals.

“I think chemistry is with line play, line combinations or defensive players, you start to develop that chemistry along the way. But at the same time if guys aren’t producing, you have to try to find a way to move guys around to see if you can develop a different kind of chemistry,” coach Don Lucia said.

While you wait for that to happen, don’t panic.

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“Once it starts getting into February and March, we’ve got to start playing, start almost peaking but not quite peaking,” Rau said. “It’s not good that we’re struggling now, but it’s good that we’re not peaking now because we’ve got a lot of room to grow.”

Mike Max