Sunday, February 21, 2010

Much-Needed Sweep For Gopher Six

The Gopher hockey team will not go down for the count quite yet.

Facing a second-division finish squarely in the face prior to this weekend, the Gophers responded with somewhat inspired hockey and swept the seventh-ranked Colorado College Tigers, capping the weekend with a 7-4 victory on Saturday.

Nick Leddy had a goal and two assists for Minnesota on Saturday, Josh Birkholz had a goal and an assist, and Jordan Schroeder and Jacob Cepis set up two goals apiece for the maroon and gold, who received four goals from defensemen.

A first period offensive explosion saw goals by Mike Hoeffel, David Fischer, CC's Rylan Schwartz, and Aaron Ness all with a span of 1:42 of the period, and the Gophers carried a 3-1 lead into the dressing room, and the Tigers looked like a team which had not yet found its legs for a second-straight night.

Birkholz's goal 2:53 into the second period gave the Gophers a three-goal cushion, but the Tigers' Kris Friedheim cut into the deficit with a power play tally after a steady parade of Gopher penalties midway through the second period. However, Leddy found the back of the net with 2:12 remaining in the period to give the Gophers another three-goal lead.

Gabe Guentzel and Tyler Johnson each scored within 3:46 into the third period as CC cut the lead to one goal and carried a lot of momentum. However, Cade Fairchild's and Tony Lucia's tallies late in the period gave the Gophers the victory and an absolutely vital series sweep.

Alex Kangas was not particularly sharp in goal, but he did pick up the victory with 22 saves.

The sweep was Minny's first in the conference since it beat Michigan Tech on December 11-12 and the first conference sweep at home since defeating Alaska-Anchorage in late October. The victories also put the Gophers back into the WCHA first round playoffs home ice picture, as the Gophers trail fifth place Colorado College and North Dakota each by three points.

With four games remaining in the season, crunch time is upon us, and Minny heads up to now-struggling UMD to play a series at the DECC next weekend. The Dogs have lost three of four and were hammered this past weekend at North Dakota and have dropped all the way to 12th place in the PairWise rankings. It is a series the Bulldogs need just as badly as the Gophers. Of course, last weekend's series was vital for CC as well, and the Gophers responded well, providing some hope in a series which has seen precious little.

Elsewhere in the WCHA:

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