Gophers Trounce Tech
Fired Up Gopher Squad Wins Heated Battle
For a game that lacked a lot of intensity, the ending sure made up for it.
After finally turning the switch back on, the Gophers run away with it on Saturday night, potting four third period goals in a 6 – 2 win over Michigan Tech, in a game that may be remembered more for coaches yelling at each other near the end of the game. Regardless, the Gophers enter the winter break (for them) in first place in the WCHA with a 14 – 5 – 1 record (11 – 3 in conference).
For the first ten minutes of the game, the Gophers simply ran Tech out of the building. The Huskies didn’t register a shot until a power play nine minutes into the game. The Gophers were up a goal on another cross ice pass from Alt to Rau and things were rolling as expected.
“We had a long meeting today” said player of the weekend Mark Alt afterwards. “I think it was a difference…just to come out in the first ten minutes, we’re just a lot faster and a played lot more physical.”
Tech coach Mel Pearson wisely called a time out after that goal and the game turned into more of an affair that resembled last night’s result. Tech got their defense in order (read: stack 4 guys on the blue line on a rush, and if the Gophers get possession, put all 5 players right in front of the net) and tied the game on a power play goal.
The second period started the same way. The first five minutes of the period were spent in the Gopher zone as Tech was outhustling the Gophers to every loose puck and the Gophers were having trouble just gaining possession.
After a couple of terrible power plays, the Gophers started to get a bit of momentum back, though. Then they took the lead back on a fantastic tip-in goal by Jake Hansen with the man advantage. Hansen positioned himself right in front of Tech goalie Josh Robinson and tipped Erik Haula’s low shot over his pad on the short side.
Things seemed to be lining up for another lock down third period by Goldy, until a penalty by Blake Thompson. Thompson, playing in just his 3rd game of the year, crushed a Tech forward right in front of the benches with a shot to the head. It was a fairly clear shot to the head in real time, and the refs made the call they are told to make – a five minute major and game misconduct.
It was a split period penalty, which seemed to favor Goldy after they killed the part to end the second period. The Gophers almost killed it all, but Tech tied the game with under a minute left to go in it. Daniel Sova’s blast from the point went upper corner as the Mariucci crowd went silent.
But then something happened. The Gopher bench woke up and all of a sudden it was six weeks ago. The speed and fore-check returned and in the matter of a few minutes, the Gophers scored three goals (Alt, Bjugstad and Miller) and the team was mobbing senior Joe Miller as he potted his first of the season.
“It’s nice to help the team and contribute” said Miller, who was told early in the morning the whole 4th line would change and he would play in his first game of the season. “It’s good for us to contribute.”
With the game basically out of reach, things got a little nuts. It all started with a cheap shot high-stick from Dennis Rix to Kyle Rau’s head. Then, with the Gophers on a power play, Jake Hansen put the Gophers up 6 – 2 with a rebound goal. A large college-style fight in front ensued, with penalties to both teams. Then Seth Helgason got into it with Carl Nielsen from Tech by the Gopher bench after the next whistle.
Things got settled…and then some players from Tech started yelling at the Gopher bench. The Gopher players yelled back, and before you knew it, Tech assistant coach Bill Muckalt (former Michigan player and NHL journeyman including Wild) got into it with Coach Lucia. Grant Potulny stepped in and jawed back and the intensity was off the charts.
Ultimately, cooler heads prevailed. Originally the officials directed everyone to their separate locker rooms, but the coaches shook hands and players were called to center ice to shake and things went without incident.
“It’s not the way we wanted the game to finish” said Lucia afterwards. “Sometimes that happens”, he said, very calmly – however clearly still fired up about it.
Joe Miller had a different take. “I personally thought it was awesome” he said, to much laughter. “It’s always fun to see coach get fired up, because he’s emotional, he’s got our back, and we’re a family here.”
Let’s all take a deep breath. The team didn’t finish the first half of the season the way they started it, but they are in first place in the WCHA and if you were offered that at the start of the season, you’d probably take it very quickly. The Gophers are off until the Mariucci Classic (or whatever they are calling it these days), a 20 day break that is very much needed. Players will be taking tests over the next couple of weeks and we’ll have either one (Bjugstad) or two (Bjugstad and Rau) players representing the USA in the World Junior Tournament. See you all over the New Year….