Saturday, February 27, 2010

Big Win for Gopher Pucks

The Gopher hockey team just won't go away.

Despite facing an uphill battle for home ice in the first round of the WCHA playoffs and an NCAA Tournament bid seeming like a pipe dream, the U finds itself on a three-game winning streak after defeating UMD Friday night 3-2 at the DECC in Duluth.

Despite being out-shot 34-24 by the 'Dogs and allowing UMD to hit on two of five power play opportunities, the U held on for the victory, thanks to some timely goaltending by Alex Kangas. The junior turned aside 32 shots and seemed to see the puck well all night long.

Nick Larson's goal midway through the first period gave the Gophers a 1-0 lead, which they held throughout the first frame and just about all of the second. However, after a terrible goaltender interference call against Mike Carman put UMD on the power play, David Grun scored with just three seconds remaining in the period to give the Bulldogs a tie and some momentum going into the third.

Duluth native Cade Fairchild scored nine minutes into the third to put the Gophers back on top, but UMD's Travis Oleksuk tied things up just over a minute later with a power play tally. However, Jacob Cepis's goal with just over five minutes remaining sealed the deal for the Gophers and gave the team a nice road victory.

Minny played well Friday night, despite allowing the two power play goals and going 0-4 on their own power plays, including a five-minute advantage in the second period. The U held the high-scoring tandem of Mike Connolly, Jack Connolly, Justin Fontaine, and Rob Bordson to just two assists in the game. They withstood the pressure, battled adversity, and scored a good victory.

The second game in the series is Saturday night, and a quick look at the standings shows the Gophers just one point back of sixth-place Colorado College and three points behind fifth-place North Dakota. The bad news there is those two teams play each other Saturday night, meaning the Gophers will not be able to gain ground on both of them. Still, the victory helps the PairWise, although these rankings show the Gophers still have a long way to go.

The past two weekends have shown that the Gophers are capable of beating good teams in the WCHA and tease fans somewhat into seeing what this team should have been playing like all season long. A victory on Saturday night will do much for this team's confidence going into the regular season's final weekend.

Elsewhere in the WCHA:

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