Thursday, January 14, 2016

City Pages puts Gophers in penalty box

The City Pages, the Twin Cities-based alt-weekly, had quite the takedown of the Minnesota Gophers men's hockey program and coach Don Lucia this week, a story that has gotten a lot of attention in the college hockey world. Many who cover and are around the sport regularly, it seems, felt the story was unfair.

Minnesota's game against Minnesota State on Nov. 14 got some prominent play, considering that the Mavericks came from behind in the final 3 1/2 minutes to tie the game and then win in overtime.

Here's the excerpt:

Detractors don't argue with the quantity of wins. It's the drumbeat of embarrassing losses to nether teams, the string of playoff defeats to squads with superior grit. As they see it, a program built on Herb Brooks' dictatorship of hard work and selflessness has deteriorated into a confederacy of excuses. 
Take a game earlier this season against Minnesota-Mankato. The Mavericks erased a two-goal lead with less than four minutes remaining, then completed the comeback with an overtime dagger. 
After the loss, Lucia fingered a freshman's mental error for allowing Mankato to climb back into the game. 
Weeks later, an NHL scout still broils. 
"That sums up the state of the program. There's always an excuse," he says. "You blow a two-goal lead with three minutes in your own barn against an average team, and it's a freshman's fault. It's another example of how they've lowered their standards, and Lucia gets away with it, having an explanation for everything. It's like because they were once good, they don't have to work to be excellent now."

That's an interesting anecdote, to be sure, especially the reaction of the anonymous scout. However, I was at Lucia's postgame presser that night and heard him talk about a freshman who iced the puck because he didn't quite make it to the red line before dumping it. Certainly, it was a key point in the game because the Mavericks took full advantage of a couple of icings by the Gophers in their comeback.

But tone matters, and I never felt, in listening to Lucia that night, that he was throwing a freshman under the bus and blaming a young kid for the loss. Rather, I thought he was explaining to the assembled reporters exactly what happened and that it was a mistake and a key one during the game. 

Am I wrong on this?

If you're curious about Lucia's reaction to the story, check out coverage here and here.

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