Friday, February 28, 2014

Gophers Steamroll Nittany Lions

Minneapolis - There are two ways a team can come out of a weekend off: sloppy, or rested.

The Gophers were a bit of both Friday night, struggling in the very early minutes of the first period before finding their legs and flattening the Penn State Nittany Lions 5-1 at Mariucci Arena.

Minnesota (22-4-5 Overall, 10-2-2-0 B1G) came into the game nursing a slender one point lead in the B1G standings with two games in hand over the Wisconsin Badgers, who are idle this weekend.  The Gophers could definitely use the points to regain their comfortable cushion in the league standings, and a dominating win tonight went a long way towards restoring that.

Penn State (6-21-2, 2-12-1-0) got an early powerplay in the first and capitalized, taking a 1-0 lead on a bungled Minnesota line change just 3:12 into the game.  Another bad change led to a 2-on-0 chance for PSU, but Adam Wilcox made a big save to keep Minnesota within striking distance at 1-0 down.

Early on in the period, head coach Don Lucia was shuffling the lines due to the absence of Tom Serratore.  Serratore, who dressed for the game, left sometime in the first period.  Official ‘U’ sources say that Serratore left the game with an “upper body injury”, but that it was precautionary and he shouldn’t be out for too long.

The Gophers would tighten up and quickly turn the tables on the Nittany Lions, knotting the score at 1-1 just 7:55 into the period.  Mike Reilly intercepted a pass at the blueline before finding a streaking Sam Warning at the top of the right circle, who ripped a snapshot past PSU goalie Matthew Skoff and into the back of the net.

Minnesota would continue the scoring barrage minutes later, when Hudson Fasching popped the puck in after a few frenzied seconds in front of the Penn State net to put the Gophers ahead for good.  Minnesota would tack on another goal at 16:10 when Fasching, on a breakaway, somehow found Kyle Rau trailing just behind the play and passed it to him for an easy goal.  Nate Condon would get another puck across the line late in the first, but after review the goal was disallowed due to an early whistle by the referee.

Up 3-1 after one period, the Gophers would continue to press their advantage in the second.  Taylor Cammarata scored just 30 seconds into the period on the powerplay.  The next few minutes featured a bevy of penalties, with the Gophers taking four penalties and drawing two in just over a five minute stretch.  Minnesota would add to its lead on the penalty kill, with Nate Condon scoring the Gophers’ first shorthanded goal of the season unassisted at 12:30 of the frame to make the game 5-1.

Although the Gophers would have many chances throughout the rest of the second and the third, the Condon shorthanded goal would end the scoring, and Minnesota skated away with a 5-1 win and a 4 point lead in the B1G standings over Wisconsin.

The Gophers will look to complete the sweep of the Nittany Lions on Saturday night.  Minnesota will also honor its seniors before the last home game of the season.  The puck drops at 6PM, so get there early if you want to pay tribute to Gopher seniors Justin Holl, Jake Parenteau, Michael Shibrowski, Tom Serratore and Nate Condon.

Notes & Quotes

3 Stars of the Game: 3) Adam Wilcox (30 Saves), 2) Mike Reilly (2 assists), 1) Hudson Fasching (1 goal, 1 assist)

Final Shots on Goal: Minnesota 36, Penn State 31.  Attempted shots were 68-46 in favor of the Gophers.

Other Gopher Point-Getters: Travis Boyd (2a), Kyle Rau (1g), Sam Warning (1g), Nate Condon (1g), Taylor Cammarata (1g), Ben Marshall (1a)

Specialty Teams: Gophers 1-3 on the powerplay, Penn State 1-5

The win moves the Gophers to 35 points in the B1G standings, 4 ahead of Wisconsin’s 31 and 10 ahead of Michigan’s 25.  Wisconsin can max out at 43 points if they win out, so the Gophers can clinch at least a share of the B1G title with eight more points.  Nine points (three non-shootout wins) will clinch the league title outright.

Gopher head coach Don Lucia, on the success of the first line: “The Rau line was good tonight, it’s good to see them get going.”  On tonight’s goal scorers: “The guys we need to score scored goals tonight.  At the end of the year you need your best players to score.” On Tom Serratore’s injury: “He was dinged up tonight. We’ll see how he’s feeling tomorrow and go from there.”  On whether senior goalie Michael Shibrowski will play on Senior Night tomorrow night: "There's a good chance of it."

Hudson Fasching, on the Rau breakaway goal: “Yeah, I actually saw him out of the corner of my eye. I was on my off hand so I didn’t really have a shot, so I passed it to him and I guess it worked out pretty well.”

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Gophers Overcome Flat First Period to Beat Michigan 4-1

Minneapolis – Coming off a sweep at the hands of the Wisconsin Badgers last weekend, the Minnesota Gophers (20-4-5 Overall, 9-2-2-0 B1G) saw their once formidable lead in the B1G conference standings shrink to just four points over the Badgers and six over the Michigan Wolverines.  With the Wolverines coming into town, the Gophers knew what they had to do to maintain their lead.

A 4-1 win Saturday night completed the sweep for Minnesota, who extended their B1G conference lead to 7 points over Wisconsin and 12 points over the Wolverines and Ohio State in the process.

The first period was a sloppy one for the Gophers.  Michigan took an early 1-0 lead at just 1:31 of the period when Andrew Sinelli scored his first of the season on a shot from the high slot.  Michigan would retain the advantage in play for the remainder of the period, looking much crisper than the Gophers in the first.

Unlike the Wolverines last night, though, the Gophers were able to score before their “bad period” ended to go into the locker room tied.  Sam Warning scored his 11th of the year at 17:46 on a tip out front off a Kyle Rau shot along the ice from the right wing boards, and just like that the game was 1-1.

Both teams came out strong in the second, trading two-on-one chances back and forth early in the frame.  The puck luck started to turn the Gophers’ way in the second period.  Connor Reilly’s booming slapshot on a Minnesota odd-man rush struck paydirt to give the Gophers a 2-1 lead at 2:53 of the second.  Just minutes later, Michigan’s own two-on-one rush was thwarted when the Wolverine player beat Adam Wilcox, but his shot clanked hard off the post / crossbar joint and clattered harmlessly away.

The middle period was full of more up-and-down action, but neither team was able to dent the twine again until Nate Condon scored at 15:20 to give the Gophers an important two-goal lead.  Vinni Lettieri curled out of the corner with the puck and found Condon streaking up the high slot.  The senior captain’s shot snuck through Michigan goalie Racine’s five-hole to make it 3-1, and the score would stay that way until the end of the period.

The Gophers would further add to their lead in the third period, as Hudson Fasching struck on a five-minute Minnesota powerplay to make it 4-1 at 8:37.  The three goal lead would never be relinquished, and the Gophers would skate off with a sweep as the clock struck zero.

The Gophers have next week off before entering the stretch run of the season.  They host Penn State February 28th and March 1st, before traveling to Ohio State and Michigan to round out the season.

Notes & Quotes:

Three stars of the game: 3) Hudson Fasching, 2) Connor Reilly, 1) Adam Wilcox

The final shots on goal were Michigan 29, Minnesota 24

Minnesota’s powerplay was only 1-5, but they held Michigan scoreless in all seven of their powerplay chances

Don Lucia, on the flow of the game: “The most important goal for us tonight was our first one.”  On the break next week: “We have some bumps and bruises, but we should be back to 100% after the break.”

Connor Reilly, on the fourth line stepping up: “Coach sat us down on Wednesday and challenged us to step up.  We’ve had one or two guys [on the fourth line] have good games, but we haven’t all been good as a three-man unit before.  It was good for all three guys to play well.”  On the slapshot: “I was trying to just blow it past him.”

Nate Condon, on scoring some goals: (visibly relieved) “It felt good!”  On getting “separation goals” this weekend: “That was definitely key.  It’s a lot easier playing with a two- or three-goal lead than a one-goal lead.”  On the John Mayasich ceremony Friday night: “It was great to meet him, he seems like a really nice guy.  Coach Guentzel came in before the game and told us his stat lines, and just about his story and Olympic triumphs.”  On what Mayasich told them: “He told us to start scoring more, so maybe his touch rubbed off on us a little.  He had enough points himself!”

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Unbeaten Streak Over as Gophers Fall 2-1 to Badgers

Madison, WI –- All good things must come to an end.

Despite a good effort from the Maroon & Gold, great goaltending from Wisconsin’s Joel Rumpel combined with the Badgers' patented brand of opportunistic offense felled the Gophers for the first time since November 24th, 2013. The loss was also the Gophers' first in B1G conference play.

Wisconsin got on the board first, capitalizing on a questionable interference penalty early on the Gophers’ Justin Holl to take the lead. Badger Frankie Simonelli’s shot from the left point squirted under Adam Wilcox’s pads and into the net at 14:47, and give Wisconsin a 1-0 lead.

The Gophers would bounce right back, though, as Kyle Rau forced a turnover behind the Badger net, which led to a Taylor Cammarata one-time goal at 17:20 of the period to tie the game at 1-1, and the first period would end that way.

Both goaltenders were tested in the second period, with Wisconsin and Minnesota trading scoring chances, but Adam Wilcox and Wisconsin’s Joel Rumpel were up to the task, both stopping every shot they faced to keep the game tied at one heading into the third.

The Gophers started to tilt the ice in Wisconsin’s direction in the third, dominating the possession and the shots on goal. However, it was Wisconsin that would score late to take the lead in the third. Jake McCabe danced around towards the slot and fired a shot through traffic that beat Wilcox. The goal, at 13:47, gave the Badgers a slim 2-1 lead which they would never relinquish. Minnesota garnered a few more scoring chances late in the third, including a short 27 second powerplay at the end of the game, but they just could not crack Rumpel, and the Badgers would hand the Gophers their first ever loss in B1G conference play.

The teams face off again tomorrow night at 8:00 CST. Tomorrow’s game is the nightcap of the Big Ten Network’s “Frozen Faceoff” coverage, which starts with Michigan State taking on the Ohio State University.


•The Gophers allowed just 19 shots on goal to the Badgers Thursday, tying a season low.
•Minnesota is now 8-3-1 when their opponents score the first goal.
•The Gophers had 32 shots, including a 10-3 margin in the third period.
•Minnesota’s powerplay was 0-4 on the night, Wisconsin was 1-1.
•Minnesota’s 14-game unbeaten streak was broken tonight. The streak, active since November 24th, was the team’s longest since a 22-game streak in the 2006-2007 season.
•My pick for three stars of the game: 1) Joel Rumpel, 2) Jake McCabe, 3) Kyle Rau