Saturday, January 16, 2010

"March to Xcel" Begins With Tie

The Gopher hockey team began its stretch drive Friday night with a competitive 3-3 tie at home against North Dakota. Jacob Cepis's goal with 2:04 remaining in the third period gave Minny one point.

The Gophers came out with good energy against the Sioux and the pace of the first period was very fast. Freshman Danny Kristo's goal nearly 16 minutes into the contest gave the Siouxies a 1-0 lead, and UND held this margin through the first intermission.

In the second period, Jordan Schroeder fired a missile past goaltender Brad Eidsness to give the Gophers a share of the lead. The power play tally kept the Gophers' streak of goals with the man advantage alive at seven. Patrick White knocked home a rebound less than two minutes later and Minnesota had a 2-1 lead, some momentum, and had the Sioux back on their heels a bit. However, UND settled the game down and really controlled play for the rest of the second period. Kristo's second goal of the night gave UND a 2-2 tie into the second intermission.

Brad Malone gave the Sioux the lead with a goal in traffic six-and-a-half minutes into the third, and it looked like North Dakota would escape with two points. Cepis's goal prevented this and the two teams earned a well-deserved tie.

Alex Kangas stopped 30 shots for the Gophers while Eidsness turned aside 24 for UND.

The same two teams meet Saturday night at Mariucci. A victory would give the Gophers a split of the series' eight points.

All and all, it was a positive game for Minnesota. They came out with plenty of energy and sustained the pressure for most of the game. UND controlled the play for large stretches of the second and third periods, but Kangas kept them in the game. It was exactly the kind of effort the Gophers needed as the team's brutal stretch drive began. Before one gets too positive about the tie, keep in mind that UND was missing three key components of their lineup Friday night due to injury: reigning WCHA Defensive Player of the Year Chay Genoway, solid sophomore forward Brett Hextall, and fine freshman forward Corban Knight. The Gophers need a victory Saturday night to take three of four points and get things moving in the right direction.

Hat Tips: Zach Budish (two assists); Cade Fairchild (two assists); Jacob Cepis (goal and assist)
Thumbs Down: David Fischer (too many defensive lapses); Aaron Ness, Fairchild, Mike Hoeffel (each -2 on the night); Mike Carman, Tony Lucia (largely invisible)

Note:  I have posted a "March to Xcel" game tracker on the left panel to document the Gophers' final 14 regular season games. As indicated several times, Minnesota needs to make a run through all six teams ahead of them in the WCHA standings to have a shot of hosting an NCAA Tournament Regional at Mariucci Arena the Xcel Energy Center (HT, Mathemetician) in March. The panel will mark the progress.

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  1. Wait, isn't the regional at the XCel Center?

  2. Mathematician - As usual, you're correct. I mixed up my regionals in my own cluttered mind, and will fix it. "March to Xcel" doesn't have the zip of "March to Mariucci," though....

  3. You are correct that it does not sound as good. My (somewhat cheesy) suggestion would be 'Road to XCel'. However, after this weekend, 'Road to a new coach' might be more appropriate. If Dean Blais is remotely interested...