Monday, November 16, 2009

Sunday's Onslaught Leaves Gophers Feeling Hollow

The Gophers headed into their weekend series with #7 Bemidji State as the underdog - at least if one looked at the national rankings. The unbeaten Beavers were ranked seventh in both national polls, while the Gophers could not crack either one. With tough weekend series ahead in November, Minnesota desperately needed two good efforts against BSU to give them some confidence. They received one decent effort and one total collapse.

Saturday night's opener featured the Gophers seemingly lulling themselves to sleep. However, they came alive late in the second period and killed off four consecutive penalties and used the momentum to score a 4-1 victory. On Sunday night, the Beavers took advantage of some Minnesota turnovers and defensive lapses, and notched three goals in 1:28 in the third period to skate away with a 6-2 win.

After spotting the Beavers a quick 1-0 lead in the first period Saturday, Minny tied the game with a goal by sophomore Nick Sacchetti. Mike Hoeffel's marker four minutes into the second period gave the Gophers a lead, but their level of play was not high until the man-advantage situations midway through the second period. The Gophers flew all over the ice from that point forward and dominated the Beavers in the latter half of the third period. Goals by Jordan Schroeder and Mike Carman cemented the victory. For Sacchetti, Schroeder, and Carman, Saturday's goals were each forward's first of the season. Cade Fairchild and Aaron Ness each notched two assists from the blue line.

On Sunday, the Gophers controlled the play early on, but defenseman David Fischer's errant pass led directly to Shea Walters' goal to give the Beavers a 1-0 lead. BSU made it 2-0 when Matt Read was allowed to hold the puck seemingly forever. The Gophers cut the deficit to one when Schroeder scored a power play marker in the second period, but Jamie MacQueen scored a power play tally at 16:11 to push the deficit back to two goals. Then came the onslaught in the third period.

BSU's Brad Hunt scored on a power play to make it 4-1 at 1:38, and added goals by MacQueen at 1:52 and Aaron MacLeod at 3:04 to push the lead to 6-1. Jake Hansen's goal midway through the third provided the final score of 6-2, and the game ended with a whimper. 

Alex Kangas received Saturday's start and continued his fine play of late. He stopped 21 Bemidji State shots and picked up his fourth victory of the season. He was yanked by coach Don Lucia after the first period on Sunday after allowing two goals on four shots, but was re-inserted in the third period after Kent Patterson was hammered for four goals on ten shots. The Gophers had been going with Kangas' hot hand in six consecutive starts, and Patterson's rust showed Sunday. The defense did little to help Patterson in the three-goal outburst of the third period, but Patterson didn't help his cause much either.

The real star of Saturday's game was the Gophers' penalty kill. Going into Saturday's game, the Gophs were on a 19-kill streak and continued that streak by going 4-4 on Saturday. The streak ended Sunday after BSU went 2-5. The struggling power play, which had been 2 for 35 for the season going into the weekend, clicked for 2 of 7 on Saturday and 2-6 on Sunday.

After the disappointment on Sunday, it's time for the Gophers to right the ship as the high-scoring UMD Bulldogs come to town for a weekend set. The Bulldogs feature four of the five top scorers in conference play, with Justin Fontaine, Mike Connolly, Rob Bordson, and Jack Connolly each recording at least 10 points. It'll be a tough draw for the Gophers who are struggling - and are thin - on the blue line.

Elsewhere in the league over the weekend:

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