With the New Year on Wednesday, it’s time we look at some New Year’s resolutions to help improve the overall quality of Gophers hockey in 2014. How long will these resolutions last? We’ll just have to wait and see.
Remaining No. 1
A key with holding on to resolutions are setting attainable goals. Entering the New Year as the No. 1 team in the country, Don Lucia and the Minnesota men’s hockey team have a target on their back. Every weekend will be a battle and though staying at the top may be difficult week-to-week, the overall goal of finishing this season as the best team in the country is the main goal.
Winning the Big Ten
Along with that No. 1 ranking should be the Big Ten Conference title. This banner is up for grabs and Minnesota will be a favorite to win the conference regular season and tournament trophies. The Golden Gophers have been pretty lackluster in the WCHA conference tournament in years past, but with the Big Ten tourney also at Xcel Energy Center in March, the Maroon and Gold will have a bit of a home ice advantage over the other five teams in the rookie league.
Winning the Hockey City Classic
Some resolutions don’t have to be a year-long affair. Sometimes you need to conquer single events to grow as an individual or team. With the Hockey City Classic at TCF Bank Stadium on Jan. 17, the Gophers have a chance to cash in on a national spotlight and move forward as a team. The other male revenue sports at Minnesota have been an embarrassment in big games over the last decade, but maybe the men’s hockey team will change the culture. With the football team’s loss in the Texas Bowl to Syracuse, this will be the next big event for the Gophers. Also, it’ll be sweet revenge as the outdoor loss to Wisconsin last season still stings.
Giving Adam Wilcox a break
Minnesota’s starting goalie is good — really good. That doesn’t mean that he should have to tend the pipes in every game going forward. Senior Michael Shibrowski can be counted on for a few starts and if I had my way, Wilcox would sit out of five of the team’s final 20 games of the regular season. Heading into the fall, Wilcox will be entering his junior season and will still need the occasional break, but his strength and ability may be at its peak by his third season in Dinkytown.
Making special teams, special once again
I’ve said that Minnesota is the best five-on-five team in the country this season, but they need to focus on improving all aspects of their special teams play. With the man-advantage or disadvantage, Minnesota is just not cutting it. This team is already the No. 1 team in the country with these deficiencies. Imagine what they could accomplish this season and next if they get their power play and penalty kill worked out. Minnesota is due for another national title under Lucia and it’ll only happen with one of these statistics ranked in the top half of the nation.