Gophers Fight Back, Earn Split
Strong Defensive Effort, Unlikely Hero save Weekend
“It’s tough to see Nick Larson go down” said senior (and player of the game) Nico Sacchetti after the game on Saturday night. “[But] it just opens up opportunities” he rightly claimed.
After a frustrating loss on Friday night, the Gophers had to have this game today, hosted at 5PM as a part of Hockey Day Minnesota. After a dull, lifeless 15 minutes to start the game (perhaps brought on by the early start), things picked up where they left off on Friday; this time the Gophers prevailed by a 2 – 1 score. They now lead the WCHA by two points, although the Bulldogs do have two games in hand.
Skating in mud for the better part of the opening period, the teams traded goals in the last five minutes and the crowd came alive a bit.
CC woke up first, or at least took advantage of some lazy play by the Gophers. Jaden Schwartz converted a pass from behind the net and the general feeling of malaise in the building was palpable.
But the Gophers answered pretty quickly. With an assist from Kent Patterson, Taylor Matson raced up ice and dropped the puck to Nate Condon. Condon used Gabe Guentzel and Scott Winkler as screens to score his 4th shorthanded goal of the year, soaking Josh Thorimbert with a shot over his glove. The life came back to the building and the team seemed a lot more focused as it lead to a better second period.
“Taylor and I just take advantage of the opportunities that we get” said Condon. “A lot of times on the power play, they have one defenseman back, so we can jump up the ice, it’s an odd man rush for us.”
The Gophers cleaned up after a jumbled special team situation with players from both teams in the box. Mark Alt took a shot from the point that went wide but caromed right to Nico Sacchetti who put a shot on net. Thorimbert kicked out the puck but Sacchetti fought off a defender and tapped it home for the first point of his senior season.
The third period was almost a complete lock down period for the Gophers. “We’ve been solid on Saturday all year” said Condon. “We couldn’t let that go to waste.”
With just under four minutes to go in regulation, the Gophers had outshot the Tigers 17 – 3 and it felt like they didn’t even possess the puck in the Gopher zone all period. The only real chance they had was when Nate Schmidt pulled up high by the blue line and CC had a modified three on one with five seconds left. Patterson made a huge save to seal it.
“They’re (the Gophers) are a top-3 defensive team in the country” said Tiger coach Scott Owens. “There was not a lot of room out there despite being an Olympic sheet. So I think a lot of the credit has to go to them, and their defensive play.”
Certainly not the offensive explosion that many people thought the series would be, but the split was probably a fair outcome. On to next week, where the Gophers return to face an in-state foe in St. Cloud State in a home and home series; Friday’s game is on the Big Ten network while the return match in St. Cloud is back on FSN. Both games start at 7PM.
POST GAME VIDEO OF LUCIA & SACCHETTI