Minnesota Holds Off Omaha
Haula Leads Team With 1g, 1a Night
Minnesota started off Saturday night nearly the same way they did Friday night, leading by a goal after 20 minutes. But unlikely Friday night, the Gophers maintained their lead earning a 3-2 win and a split with Omaha.
“We did our stats and we had 50 turnovers and 17 hits last night,” said Lucia. “And guess what, that’s not a very good recipe for winning hockey games and that had to be reversed a bit.”
Minnesota’s coaching staff put it on the team to play smarter with the puck and it showed.
“That was definitely a major emphasis with Coach Guentzel when he talked to our defensemen today,” said Nate Schmidt. “Not only that our forwards get the puck in deep, but it’s on us as a defensive corps to take care of the puck and give ourselves a chance to win.”
The Gophers played more conservatively on the rush protecting the puck, played more dump and chase hockey, and kept a third forward high hockey most of the night to protect their lead. Lucia also departed from his tendency to four roll lines, as he often mixed and matched forwards and defensive pair combinations. Eventually he shortened the bench down the stretch relying heavily on three lines and defensemen Ben Marshall and Schmidt.
“We got down to the last 10, 12 minutes and it was going to be a three line game so we just took our nine guys we felt were playing the best and that was who was going to play,” said Lucia. “I thought the guys did a good job adjusting, because one shift they’re playing right wing, the next shift they’re playing center.
Minnesota special teams came through Saturday night. The Gophers killed off four short-handed situations and capitalized on seven power play opportunities with two goals.
“A couple undisciplined penalties that we’re really not known for [cost us]. Minnesota is the least penalized and we’re the second least penalized team, but tonight we got off our game--too emotional,” said Dean Blais.
Minnesota got on the board early as Erik Haula received a pass from Mike Reilly, skated across the slot, and snuck a backhander along the ice past Faulkner for a power play goal 2:09 into the first period.
Omaha goaltender John Faulkner earned another start in net over 6’6” Philadelphia 2nd Round Pick Anthony Stolarz after earning the win Friday. The 6’1” senior delivered a great first period for Blais, making 15 saves in the opening period, and 30 on the night. If not for the play of Faulkner the game could have been a blowout as the Gophers were dominating play so much that Blais called a timeout midway through the first period.
The Gophers got another early power play goal 58 seconds into the second when Nick Bjugstad took a Nate Schmidt pass at the top of the left wing circle and ripped a wrist shot back across Faulkner into the upper right corner.
Tom Serratore notched what turned out to be the game winner 1:24 seconds later to put the Gophers up 3-0. Christian Isackson found himself on quite a few different lines during the night, but on this shift he forced an Omaha turnover to Nate Condon who in turn made a back handed a pass to a Serratore who fired a quick shot past Faulkner’s blocker.
Big Andrej Sustr got the Mavericks back into the game with a slap shot that beat Adam Wilcox at 17:48 of the second period. Wilcox went down into his butterfly a bit early, and Sustr beat him up top.
Blais got his team to apply the pressure through out the third period and while the Mavericks only tallied six shots in the final period, it looked like Minnesota was on the ropes. Blais even pulled his goalie with five minutes left to give his team a 6-on-4 advantage. Johnnie Searfoss cut the Gopher lead to one when he one-timed a Matt White pass from behind the net past Wilcox. Minnesota tried to slow the game by playing dump and chase, third forward high hockey down the stretch, but Omaha kept the pressure up until the final horn.
Minnesota escaped from the series with a split despite not putting together 60 minute efforts either night. Minnesota goes into their final conference games of 2012 against Colorado College sitting 5-3-2 WCHA record tied with St. Cloud St. for second and one point ahead of Omaha. Next Friday’s game in Colorado Springs is a late 8:30 faceoff and Saturday’s game is an 8 pm puck drop as both games are on FSN and ESPN 1500.
Golden Nuggets: Mark Alt was scratched on Saturday night for the first time this season… Omaha and Minnesota came into tonight’s game as two of the least penalized teams in the WCHA, but Omaha’s 12 penalties for 35 minutes will increase their 10.9 PIM/G average… Haula was named the number one start of the game, Schmidt second star, and Condon third star… One-time Gopher commit Ryan Walters had a heck of a weekend at Mariucci, with 2 assists on Friday and Saturday, the Rosemount native might be sitting atop the WCHA point scoring leaders in all games Monday with 6g and 14a.