Gophers Sweep Mavericks
Timely Goals, Third Period Defense Key Sweep
Anyone watching WCHA hockey for a long period of time – or any sport for that matter – knows that just about anything at this time of the year is difficult. Tonight’s game was not easy – but when things aren’t exactly clicking, this is exactly how you go about beating a desperate team while on the road. Timely scoring, special teams goals and (basically) lock down 3rd period defense carried the Gophers to a 3 – 2 win and a sweep of Omaha, their first sweep against at home in just over four years.
The game started about as opposite as can be of Friday night. The Mavericks were all over the Gophers; a great fore-check had the Gophers on their heels and they went up 1 – 0 after a poor defensive breakdown left Brent Gwidt all alone at the side of the net.
But the Gophers were able to shift momentum and rebound to take the lead shortly after, however. On a Gopher line change, defenseman Mark Alt took the puck up ice with no puck support. He wheeled around the Maverick defense and put a harmless backhand on net, which found a way past Ryan Massa. Just minutes later, Kyle Rau put home a power play goal from his area to the right of the net and it seemed like the Gophers had recovered from taking a serious punch, taking a 2 – 1 lead into the intermission.
But while the Gophers took a 3 – 1 lead into the 2nd period intermission there was no question that Omaha was a team that wasn’t giving up. Kyle Rau’s power play tally was an abbreviation as the Mavericks titled the ice their way just about all period, and the Gophers were lucky to get out without giving up a tally.
It seemed like this one may salt away on the power of the Gopher defense. Eleven minutes left and the Gophers headed to the power play. But another Justin Holl mistake while on said power play lead to a Maverick shorthanded goal and it was ‘buckle-up’ time.
Ultimately there was nothing to worry about. Omaha pulled the goalie with 1:42 left but the Gophers held on for the sweep and a huge four points on the weekend.
Nick Bjugstad did not play in the third period after taking an awkward hit from behind into the boards during the 2nd period. But reports after the game were that the injury wasn’t serious.
The Gophers will now go into the final weekend of regular season play with a two point lead and tiebreaker over 2nd place UMD. Wisconsin is playing much better lately, with a three game win streak after sweeping Bemidji State on the road, and with the McNaughton Cup at stake, there’s a great chance it’ll have an old time Gopher-Badger feel to it. Both games start at 7PM.