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!”

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