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11-29-2003, 08:28 PM
Oilers Chick
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What won the game for Minnesota was some aggresive and physical play, their resilience to regroup and stay the course after losing Ballard in the 2nd period. Freshman Kellen Briggs wasn’t spectacular but he was clutch when he had to be. Troy Riddle (STL) and Gino Guyer (DAL) were arguably the best forwards for Minnesota. The two linemates created several great scoring oppotunities and accounted for two of Minnesota’s goals. However, the story of the night for the Gophers was their defense. Despite being ejected, Ballard was excellent early on in the game, including the awesome transitional pass to Guyer on Minnesota’ first goal. Freshman Jake Taylor was laying the hits often and at times brutally. He also managed to show off some of his shooting prowess, getting some nice shots off despite not scoring. Sophomore P.J. Atherton (TB) who basically was Ballard’s fill-in tonight was really making a case for himself for some more ice time. He was effective in not only the physical play but made some great and smart defensive plays, particularly during Michigan’s extended power play to help keep the Wolverines off the board.

The Wolverines had several players who were just terrific tonight. Despite being sacked with the loss, freshman Alvaro Montoya looked quite promising. What was impressive about Montoya more than anything else is his excellent ability of handling the puck. Unlike many NCAA netminders, Montoya is quite at home making plays with the puck and what’s more is that he likes that aspect of the game. Junior Eric Nystrom (CGY) was excellent in his physical play, even after being rammed into the boards by Ballard and his playmaking. He didn’t get on the board tonight, but it wasn’t due to a lack of trying. Defenceman Brandon Rogers (ANA) who possesses some nice hands, was also outstanding in his play. Freshman Mike Brown was a joy to watch. A real speedster who made several nice plays tonight definitely deserved a mention. But the player of the night for Michigan was sophomore phenom Jeff Tambellini (LA). Los Angeles Kings fans would’ve been delighted at watching him play tonight. With the exception of the play that led to Barry Tallackson’s empty-netter, he played an absolutely awesome game. While many know Tambellini as a speedy goal scorer with great hands, what was most impressive about him tonight was his less talked about defensive abilities. Two outstanding defensive plays he made tonight stood out. Both came in the 1st period. The first was when a Wolverine turnover created an odd-man rush going the opposite way. It was Minnesota’s Barry Tallackson (NJ) and Grant Potulny (OTT) versus Tambellini. Just as the Minnesota pair go to the Michigan net, Tambellini makes a smart and outstanding move by going down to take away the passing lane from Tallackson, who had puck possession. This forced Tallackson to take the shot himself. Montoya who was already square to Tallackson made the save. The other great defensive play came later in the period when Tambellini had the unenviable task of having to go one-on-one with the strong and hard to move Chris Harrington. He showed some strength of his own as he stayed with then outmuscled Harrington for not only the puck but also in taking away a possible scoring chance.

Overall, it was a very entertaining game. The pity is that these two teams do not meet more often during the course of the season, because they both make for some really fun hockey to watch, even with its problems.

[NOTE: Due to the recent HF problems it didn't allow me to put this all in one thread header because it said I exceeded the limit.]

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