Vinni Lettieri gets his first two goals of the season
Boston, Mass. – Kyle Rau was hoping this weekend would be a good one for Minnesota since the Frozen Four will be at TD Garden at season’s end. While the last few trips to Boston haven’t turned out well for the Gophers, this season’s Boston road trip is off to a good start.
The No. 3 Gophers (8-3) got goals from five different players, including two from Vinni Lettieri, and a steady 24 save performance from Adam Wilcox as they beat No. 10/11 Boston College (7-6) 6-2 at Conte Forum.
“You sit and watch Vinni skate and compete and score goals in practice—it just hadn’t translated in the games,” said Lucia after the game to ESPN 1500 radio. “We need him. Travis isn’t playing and it’s his opportunity to step up and have a bigger role. It was great that he was able to get a couple goals for us tonight.”
Brady Skjei returned from injury and helped Minnesota play a steady road game as they outshot the Eagles 30-26.
“We played a much more complete game, getting Brady back made a difference because he could play a heavy game which we needed on the back end,” said Lucia. “We played much better, much harder, and much sounder than what we’ve been playing the last few weeks.”
Throughout the first period both teams were playing a tight defensive game. The shots were only 8-6 with the Gophers leading. Sam Warning got the scoring started 16:57 into the first period. Ryan Collins threaded a pass to Justin Kloos as the fleet footed forward split between the Eagles defensive pair. Kloos’ shot didn’t beat Boston College goalie Thatcher Demko, but Warning jumped on the rebound for his fourth of the season.
The Gophers caught a break late in the second period when Demko tried to start the breakout up his right wing, but Lettieri picked it off, walked in and beat him cleanly through the five-hole at 17:32 for his first of the year. Minnesota added their third goal 50 seconds later when Kloos dished the puck up top to Ben Marshall. The senior defenseman one-timed the puck into the upper right corner for his second goal of the season.
Minnesota got into a lull during the second period and Boston College took advantage. The Gophers slowed the game down, were not regrouping behind the puck, and started to force long passes up the rink. It wasn’t so much that they were being forced into mistakes, but they allowed the Eagles to counter-attack off turnovers.
The Gophers fumbled the puck in their own zone on the breakout as Jack Glover and Christian Isackson were left without any options, turned the puck over, and Minnesota Wild first round pick Alex Tuch converted an all alone chance at 3:33 to make it 3-1. Then at 6:05 the Eagles cut the lead to one, when Adam Gilmour’s shot/pass went of the side of the net out front and Destry Straight drove the net to touch it past Wilcox.
“The game changed a bit with that turnover in the third period by Glover, he just kind of fumbled the puck, and they made a good play,” said Lucia on the radio. “These are lively boards, they got the second one, and we were thinking about a time out, but I didn’t feel like the pressure was being put on us.”
The Gophers righted the ship after the second Eagles goal though, as Jake Bischoff joined the rush and Kyle Rau found him coming late down the left wing. It was Bischoff’s first of the season at 9:43 and the team didn’t look back. Lettieri got his second of the night and the season at 13:07 after Ryan Reilly picked a Boston College player’s back pocket as he tried to leave the zone and Isackson found Lettieri on a nice passing play to make it 5-2.
The Eagles pulled their goalie with plenty of time to go in the third period. After Kyle Rau hit the pipe on a clear, and Seth Ambroz put it in the net while a player was off side, Connor Reilly finally got the empty net goal at 19:24.
The Gophers clinched the Big Ten/Hockey East challenge for their conference with the win and will finish their road trip at the oldest indoor rink in the United States, Northeastern, Saturday at 6 pm. Northeastern has a veteran group returning their goalie, all of their top goal scorers from last season, and Lucia joked he got out-scheduled since the Huskies were idle Friday night.
GOLDEN NUGGETS: Minnesota is 3-0 so far against Hockey East this season, with the two-game home sweep over Notre Dame earlier in the season… Lucia shuffled his lines Friday to try and get some more balance. Cammarata joined Rau and Fasching on the top line, Warning, Kloos, and Connor Reilly were on the second line, Bristedt, Lettieri, and Ambroz were the third line. Lucia dressed Ryan Reilly and Isackson as the extra forwards and played seven defensemen leaving out Steve Johnson… Three stars of the game from Frank and Wally were #3 Warning, #2 Kloos, #1 Lettieri… Ambroz and Mike Reilly were ‘honorable mentions…’ The official three stars of the game were Kloos #3, Ryan Reilly #2, and Lettieri #1…