Sunday, February 13, 2011

Minnesota Explodes for 7 Goals, Rips #4 Denver in Series Finale

Minnesota's 2-1 loss to Denver on Friday night was most notable for the Gophers' inability to score goals. The Gophers had plenty of scoring chances, but simply could not beat Denver's Sam Brittain between the pipes.

That was not an issue Saturday night. Minnesota beat both Brittain and Denver's backup goalie Adam Murray a combined seven times, and the Gophers stomped all over Denver to the tune of a 7-3 victory.

Saturday: 7-3 Gopher Victory

Saturday's game opened very similarly to Friday night's contest, with both teams playing well early on. Mark Alt took an early boarding penalty, and it appeared that Denver took an early lead on a quick deflection in front of Kent Patterson. However, the referees took a look at the play and ruled that the Denver player kicked the puck into the net, so the goal was disallowed.

That disallowed goal was about as close to scoring as Denver would get until the third period. The Gophers absolutely dominated the game from this point onward. Jacob Cepis scored on a wraparound at 7:22 of the period. Taylor Matson scored on a shot from the low slot less than a minute later, at 8:18. Nick Bjugstad took a elbowing penalty at 9:42, but even that couldn't stop the Gopher attack. Minnesota killed the penalty and Mark Alt hit a streaking Bjugstad on a breakaway out of the box, who beat Brittain top-corner to give the Gophers a resounding three goals in just 4:27 and take a commanding 3-0 lead.

Although they wouldn't score any more goals in the first period, Minnesota was by no means done putting pucks in the net. The Gophers scored 33 seconds into the second period on an Erik Haula wrist shot, and Denver coach George Gwozdecky decided he'd seen enough of Brittain, pulling him in favor of backup Adam Murray. Murray didn't fare much better, as Mike Hoeffel and Cade Fairchild beat Murray in the second period to stake the Gophers to an insurmountable 6-0 lead.

Denver won the third period 3-1, but the story of the period was a major brawl involving the Gophers' Jake Hansen and Denver's David Makowski. Hansen and Makowski were given 5-minute majors for fighting and game disqualifications. This means that Hansen and Makowski will miss their teams next games, which could loom large for the Gophers. A Patrick White goal at 12:40 of the period rounded out the Gopher scoring on the night, and capped off a great game that rewarded Minnesota for a solid effort.

The "Kent Patterson" Gopher Star of the Game: Jacob Cepis

Cepis scored the game's first goal on a nifty wraparound move, and added an assist on the team's sixth goal of the game, but Cepis wins this award for the way that he plays. Cepis gives 100% effort whenever he's on the ice, constantly moves his feet and is continuously challenging players that are bigger and stronger than he is. Very few players in college hockey, though, are stronger on the puck than Cepis. He's not afraid to go to the net, and that fearlessness results in power play opportunities and goal scoring chances for his team. Cepis is often the offensive star of the game, and on a night when his team scored seven goals, Cepis deserves the star of the game for helping to put the team in position to win.

Saturday Conclusion

A great win for the Gophers against a good team, but this can only be the beginning. We need to see consistent good effort the rest of the way, and the team's goal scoring touch needs to stick against Wisconsin next weekend. The Gophers need something like five wins in their next six games, and two against Wisconsin would help the team immensely in its quest to make the NCAA tournament. The season is winding down... the time to win is now!

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