Sunday, January 17, 2010

Best Performance of Season Gives Gopher Pucks Hope for Stretch

The Gopher hockey team passed its first test this weekend with flying colors.

Beginning a stretch run which sees the seventh-place Gophers matching up against all six teams in front of them in the WCHA standings - along with a series at Alaska-Anchorage - in the regular season's final seven weeks, the Gophers followed up a competitive Friday night tie with an emphatic 5-1 victory over #6 North Dakota on Saturday night.

Five different Gophers found the back of the net in Saturday's affair, but the story of the night was Alex Kangas. The junior stopped 34 North Dakota shots in route to the victory. He was especially impressive in the second period, in which he turned aside all 12 UND shots, many of which from shallow range, and was able to propel the Gophers into an offensive explosion in the second period.

Things started out well for Minny. Nico Sacchetti's shot off the crossbar was knocked home by Josh Birkholz to give the Gophers a 1-0 lead, which they carried into the intermission. Kangas's strong play kept things constant in the second, and the Gophers launched into an offensive powerhouse in late in the second, scoring three times in just over three minutes to take a 4-0 lead. Zach Budish got things going with the eventual game-winner with 5:09 remaining in the frame. Tony Lucia scored on a nice breakaway, and Jacob Cepis added his own tally just seven seconds later. Mike Hoeffel's power play goal 55 seconds into the third period capped the scoring for Minnesota, and marked the eighth straight game the Gophers have tallied on the power play. The Gophers dominated the game Saturday and also managed to kill off all ten UND power plays this weekend.

Minnesota is now 7-1-1 in their last nine games and has evened its conference record at 7-7-2 on the season. They have gone over the .500 mark at home (7-6-1) and are also 12-10-2 on the season.

Not all was cream cheese in Saturday's game. Freshman defenseman Nick Leddy banged his head against the end wall in a collision with a UND player, but later returned. Cepis also took a high hit in the second period and did not return as a precaution.

A home-and-home series against St. Cloud State awaits the Gophers next weekend. The Friday night tilt will be in the Granite City, while the series shifts to Mariucci Arena for Saturday. Remember, the Gophers defeated the Huskies all six times the two teams met last season, and SCSU will be up for this series. Cloud is currently riding a six-game winning streak and swept a non-conference series against Quinnipiac on the road this weekend. The Huskies are four points ahead of the Gophers in the standings, so you do the math.

One thing is certain: the Gophers are playing well right now and one has to believe this weekend is a series upon which to build. Three out of four against the Sioux definitely helped the PairWise this weekend. Six series await the Gophers to prove they belong in the NCAA Tournament in 2009-10.

Elsewhere in the League:

No comments:

Post a Comment