It was a big win for Minnesota as it finally got over the Friday night struggles.
It was a hard to come by Friday night win for the Minnesota Gopher Hockey team, as they knocked off in-state rival St. Cloud State by a final score of 2-1 in front of 10,088 at Mariucci Arena tonight.
Minnesota started out the game sluggishly, and looked out of sync as the two teams fumbled their way through the first fifteen minutes of the game. For their part, St. Cloud State was not having a lot of success incorporating some sort of game plan that seemed to involve dumping the puck high out of their own end into the neutral zone, almost as if they were pinning their hopes on the Gophers misplaying a puck, leading to an offensive opportunity for the Huskies. If that was indeed the plan, it was not a good one. Still, St. Cloud State did have the better of the chances in the first period, and Gopher Goaltender Kent Patterson had to come up with some big saves. For the game, Patterson only had twelve saves on thirteen shots. But as they say, it's not quantity, it's quality. And most of the shots Patterson saw throughout the game were quality chances, especially in the first period.
On Offense, Jake Hansen had a good night for Minnesota, creating several chances for teammates, and getting a few opportunities himself. He converted on his first opportunity at 13:26 of the first period, when he took a pass from Erik Haula while skating up the right side in the St. Cloud State end, angled in towards the net, and let a wrister go from about ten feet out. The shot hit Huskie Goalkeeper Mike Lee's pad and bounced right back to Hansen who knocked the puck out of the air with the shaft of his stick and past Lee for the 1-0 Gopher lead. "I didn't even realize the puck had hit me until I saw it in the net", Hansen would say after the game of his tenth goal of the season.
The Huskies would tie the game early in the second period on a power play goal from Ben Hanowski. Hanowski was all alone at the side of the net when he took a cross ice pass. He out-waited a sprawling Patterson, and put his shot up and over the Gopher Goalie for the equalizer. Minnesota would respond at 11:49 of the second period, though, with Hansen collecting his second point of the night when he assisted on Nick Bjugstad's twenty first goal of the season. Hansen made a perfect touch pass to Bjugstad waiting at the back door, and Bjugstad made no mistake as he put it into a wide open net for the game winner.
Except for the Hanowski goal, Minnesota's power play was effective as they were able to kill off three of the four man advantages that St. Cloud State was given, including two in the third period while Minnesota was clinging to their one goal lead. The team the fans saw tonight more closely resembled the Gopher team that started the season so hot, back-checking hard, blocking shots, and clearing rebounds from in front of their own net. Minnesota shut down the Huskies offensively in the third period, allowing only one shot on goal which, again, included two SCSU power plays.
Minnesota Head Coach Don Lucia said after the game that he was happy to get the monkey off the teams back and get a win on Friday, and was pretty happy with his teams effort. Lucia liked how the team played from a defensive standpoint, but acknowledged "We didn't do enough offensively, and just couldn't get the puck to the net" referring to the Gophers inability to get shots through, primarily in the first period.
The #3 Gophers (18-9-1, 14-5-0 WCHA) will go for the sweep when they play the Huskies (10-13-4, 7-9-3 WCHA) in St. Cloud on Saturday night, as part of a home and home series between the two teams. Game time is 7:00 PM (Central), and the game will be broadcast on Fox Sports North.
Tag(s): Other Gopher Sports