Sunday, December 6, 2009

Saturday Night Energy Level Much Better As Pucksters Earn Split

After a lackluster game on Friday night on home ice against Minnesota State, the Gopher hockey team scored the first three tallies in Saturday night's contest in Mankato and held on for a 6-2 win over MSU to earn a series split.

The effort was much, much, better Saturday night. The Gophers came out with some energy in the first period and controlled the play from the opening drop. The team also improved its defensive play, holding Mankato to just 22 shots one night after allowing 42. Improving the team's defense is paramount to the Gophers' having success in the WCHA the rest of the way, and the return of Nick Leddy to the lineup should help the d-corps.

Leddy scored his first collegiate goal on a shot from the blue line, and Josh Birkholz pumped in the next two for Minny, also his first two goals in the M&G. The Gophers definitely need production from their freshmen, and Leddy's and Birkholz's contributions were welcomed. Tyler Pitlick, a Minnesota State freshman from Centennial, scored the next two, the second coming on a horrible misplay in front of the Gopher net by goaltender Alex Kangas midway through the second period, cutting the deficit to 3-2 and giving the Mavericks some momentum in a game controlled by Minnesota to that point. MSU ended up out-shooting Minnesota 13-7 in the second period to suggest an interesting finish. Instead, the Gophers dropped a hammer on the Mavericks in the third period.

Sophomore Nico Sacchetti scored early in the third to push the lead to 4-2. Goals by Patrick White and Taylor Matson (his first collegiate goal as well) sealed a much-needed win.

Kangas picked up the victory, his first since November 14, and made 20 saves in the contest.

The Gophers are now 6-9-1 on the season (4-7-1 in the WCHA) and will spend next weekend on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to take on struggling Michigan Tech. MTU has lost five games in a row and was hammered at Wisconsin this weekend, losing the two games by a combined score of 14-2. The Gophers need a sweep next weekend and would then near the .500 mark both in the league and overall as they head into the Christmas break of their schedule. A little bit of confidence heading into the holidays will also ease some of the pressure of what has been a very disappointing start to the season.  

Elsewhere in the WCHA:
  • St. Cloud State at Alaska Anchorage: SCSU 3, UAA 1 (Real barn-burner with 33 total shots on goal); SCSU 3, UAA 2 (Aaron Marvin with two goals for St. Cloud) - St. Cloud State Sweep
  • Denver vs. Colorado College: DU 2, CC 1; DU 4, CC 4 (Mike Testwuide with a hat trick for CC; Rhett Rahkshani with two goals and assist for DU) - Denver Win and a Tie
  • North Dakota at UMD: UND 4, UMD 2; UMD 3, UND 2 (OT - Justin Fontaine with game-winner 12 seconds into OT) - Series Split
  • Michigan Tech at Wisconsin: UW 8, MTU 2 (Blake Geoffrion with a hat trick, Brendan Smith with four assists for Wisconsin); UW 6, MTU 0 (Scott Gudmandson with a shutout and Brendan Smith, Derek Stepan, and Michael Davies with three points apiece for Wisconsin) - Wisconsin Sweep
  • Conference Standings
  • Updated PairWise

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