After a chilly start to the season, the Gophers appear to be hitting their stride.
Minnesota is entering this weekend’s North Star College Cup on a five-game winning streak, its longest of the season.
The Gophers hadn’t won more than two games in a row all season prior to January, and the team didn’t have a winning record until Jan. 16.
“Some guys that we need to start scoring are scoring,” head coach Don Lucia said. “We’ve worked hard on that part of our game with puck movement and making more plays in the offensive zone, down low. It’s nice to see some of those things that you work on come to fruition in a game.”
Minnesota’s offense has exploded in the winning streak after scoring only one goal in its first three games. The team averaged 5.6 goals per game in its last five contests, including a 9-2 victory at Wisconsin on Saturday.
The scoring has picked up thanks to a number of individual performances, starting with junior forward Hudson Fasching. The Burnsville, Minn., native has been the team’s most prolific scorer this season, with 19 points in his last 12 games.
“The light really went off for him,” Lucia said. “He’s playing terrific for us.”
Lucia said at the beginning of the year that the team might not have any 20-goal scorers this season, but now the Gophers might have two.
Fasching has 15 goals with 12 games left in the regular season, and sophomore forward Leon Bristedt is not far behind with 12.
Junior captain Justin Kloos’ rough start of the season put him too far behind to reach 20, but he’s picked up his play in recent weeks. He scored four goals in his first 18 games, but now he’s scored one in each of his last five.
“I think Justin Kloos is playing really well right now for us,” Lucia said. “Not that [he wasn’t] before, but all of the sudden when you start to get rewarded, then you feel better about yourself. It’s easier to lead on a daily basis.”
Their captain coming around and the younger players adjusting to college has helped spark the Gophers’ recent surge. Minnesota is ranked No. 20 by USCHO.com this week after being out of the rankings since Nov. 2.
“Everybody knows the system at this point,” Fasching said. “The freshmen have kind of fallen into their roles. They understand where they’re supposed to be on the ice. It’s just building up.”
The Gophers haven’t lost a game in regulation since Dec. 11, in addition to their five straight victories.
“I think our team is on a roll right now,” junior defenseman Michael Brodzinski said. “I think that if we keep it going, we’ll have a pretty good shot by the end of the year.”
The team’s four most recent victories came against the two teams at the bottom of the Big Ten standings, Wisconsin and Michigan State. That still hasn’t stopped the Gophers from celebrating signs of progress.
“I’m happy for our guys that they’ve been able to stay with the process, stay engaged, come to the rink every day to get better, and now they’re starting to see some results,” Lucia said.