The second (and final meeting) of the regular season series between these two WCHA heavyweights was once again living up to the billing. Minnesota, very disappointed in the loss last night in overtime started the game with some very new and some very different line combinations. However, the Gophers also lost the services of freshman defenseman Nate Hagemo, who was feeling the effects of a recurring shoulder problem that he suffered earlier in the season in a game against Minnesota State-Mankato. With Hagemo out, junior P. J. Atherton (TB) was inserted into the Minnesota lineup. CC had injury issues of their own as they lost freshman Derek Patrosso to a concussion, suffered in last night’s game. The good news for the Tigers was that they returned junior defenseman Brady Greco (TB) to the lineup.
The game began with Minnesota coming out like a team on a mission. Minnesota freshman Evan Kaufmann, one of the few Gophers players to have a good night, had several very good scoring opportunities early. Minnesota dominated territorially early in the game. It didn’t take long before the rough stuff would flare up. At the 3:36 mark, a pair of junior prospects in Minnesota forward Gino Guyer (DAL) and CC defenseman Brady Greco (TB) would be called off for matching roughs as things got a little heated around CC sophomore goaltender Matt Zaba’s (LA) crease. It was just the beginning of several such heated exchanges throughout the game. Minnesota played with a great deal of intensity and determination for much of the period. At the 6:18 mark, senior Jake Fleming got the Gophers on the board first. The play started with Fleming driving into the CC zone with a full head of steam, making a beeline to the net before wristing a shot that beat Zaba top shelf, left corner for the score. Sophomore defenseman Michael Vannelli (ATL) and freshman defenseman Alex Goligoski (PIT) would draw the assists. Things heated up again a bit later on as Minnesota junior Tyler Hirsch and CC junior Brett Sterling (ATL) got into it and were sent off of on coincidental roughs at 8:36. Despite winning the battles to loose pucks, the Gophers had trouble making clean, crisp passes on a consistent basis. They did a nice job of standing up to and challenging the Tigers, not allowing CC to get much set up in the offensive zone. For much of the period, Zaba looked to be fighting the puck, surrendering many rebounds, but that would all change as the game progressed. Around the 14 minute mark of the period, a collision near the corner boards took place between Tigers freshman Jimmy Kilpatrick skating towards a loose puck and Minnesota sophomore goaltender Kellen Briggs coming way out to try and play the puck. After the collision, tempers really started to flare up as a crowd gathered around both players, who appeared not to have ill effects as a result of the collision. When the situation was sorted out, CC would get a power play as Kilpatrick got a roughing minor while Minnesota sophomore Danny Irmen (MIN) was tagged with a double minor, two for instigating and two for roughing. Nothing would result from the power play as the Gophers did an excellent job of not allowing the Tigers to get anything set up. At the 18:25 mark, the Tigers would get the equalizer from sophomore Scott Thauwald. The play began with a nice pass behind the net from junior Joey Crabb (NYR) out to an incoming Thauwald. Thauwald coming into the slot area gets the pass and wrists a shot that goes top-shelf behind Briggs for the score. The goal was somewhat controversial in that immediately before Crabb made the play, both the Minnesota bench as well as the 10,000+ fans at Mariucci were loudly booing the non icing call that they felt should’ve been made. Nonetheless, the goal stood, although the referee likely got an earful from Minnesota head coach Don Lucia at the period break. As the period ended, some minor scrums broke out when Sterling bowled his way to the Minnesota crease, bumping Briggs in the process. As a result, Sterling would be called off for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty at the 19:50 mark.
With Sterling still in the box, Minnesota began the second period on the power play. The Tigers did a much better job in this period in their penalty killing. At the 2:02 mark, senior Barry Tallackson (NJ) would be called off for a slash, putting CC on the power play. CC from here on out would continually drive the net at every possible opportunity while being the perennial thorn in the side of Briggs. At the 4:06 mark, just after Tallackson’s penalty had expired, junior Marty Sertich would give the Tigers their first lead of the game. The play began with Sterling bringing the puck into the Minnesota zone on a two-on-two with Crabb. Sterling then stops, curls around and makes a nice backhanded drop pass to Sertich. Sertich then proceeds to make a touch pass to sophomore defenseman Brian Salcido. Salcido proceeds to fire the puck at the Minnesota net. Just as Salcido launches his shot, Sertich is cruising by the Gophers crease. Salcido’s shot looked to be tipped by Vannelli on its way to the net, but instead fell down where Sertich was. Sertich proceeded to take control of the loose puck and fires a backhander into the open side of the net, with Briggs out of position, for the score. Salcido drew the lone assist on the goal. Soon thereafter, the Gophers got an absolutely glorious scoring opportunity courtesy of a turnover by Tigers senior Scott Polaski (PHX). The turnover, which created a 3-on-1 chance for the Gophers with Vannelli in perfect shooting position, was stopped cold by Zaba. It was perhaps Zaba’s best save of the night. At the 5:23 mark, Crabb would extend the Tigers’ lead to 3-1. The play began with sophomore John Brunkhorst sweeping the puck off the sideboards and back deeper into the Gophers zone. The puck goes behind the Minnesota net where junior Trevor Frischmon is there to retrieve it. Frischmon spots an incoming Crabb to the right of Briggs and proceeds to drop a pass back to him. Crabb then fires a blistering low shot that beats Briggs just under his glove for the score. Frischmon and Brunkhorst would draw the assists. The score was now 3-1 Tigers. One problem that would plague and eventually bring down the Gophers was their inability to keep skating. Far too often in the latter two periods of the game, the Gophers were outskated and outshustled to loose pucks by CC. Furthermore, the Tigers began to get the grind game” going, causing further problems for the Gophers. Down but not yet out, the Gophers pressed on. At the 8:37 mark Goligoski and Brunkhorst would be sent off on coincidental minors after yet another minor scrum. At the 9:11 mark, Guyer would cut the Tigers’ lead to 3-2 during some 4-on-4 play. The play begins in the Gophers zone, where Briggs had just stopped a Brett Sterling shot. Freshman defenseman Derek Peltier (COL) picks up the rebound and starts out. On a great heads up play, he spots a streaking Guyer and makes a long, cross-ice outlet pass to him. Guyer gets the puck and drives to the CC net. He shoots and beats Zaba low and just inside the near post for the score. Peltier drew the lone assist, making the score now 3-2 CC. As the period wore on, the intensity and physical play started to pick up. A parade to the penalty box by both teams followed. In the latter stages of the period, the Gophers began to really attack the Tigers net, forcing Zaba to make several outstanding saves to keep them off the scoreboard.
Like the second period, the Gophers started the final period on the power play. At the 19:22 mark of the second period, Tigers captain, junior defenseman Mark Stuart (BOS) was called off for a hook. The Gophers power play just couldn’t get going and it would be a sign of things to come for Minnesota. As the period went on, the Tigers gradually took over virtually every facet of the game. Once again, the Gophers allowed the Tigers far too much space and the challenging of puck carriers, not to mention the fore and back checking was almost non-existent. One of the best scoring opportunities of the night that didn’t result in a goal came early in this period for CC as sophomore defenseman Lee Sweatt, going one-on-one with Minnesota freshman Kris Chucko (CGY), not only knocked Chucko off the puck but managed to win puck possession, make a nice pass up to freshman Jimmy Brannigan who went in for a shot only to be stopped by Briggs. At the 5:39 mark, CC began to bust open the game as Brannigan would restore the Tigers’ two-goal lead. The play began with a bad turnover by sophomore Ryan Potulny (PHI), who wasn’t paying attention to who was just inside the CC blueline. The puck came to Brannigan, who proceeded to bring up the puck into the Gophers zone. Just as he gets inside the blueline, he drops the puck off to junior Aaron Slattengren, who was trailing Brannigan coming into the Minnesota zone. Slattengren moves in towards the Minnesota net before making a nice cross-ice pass to Brannigan who had just come into the slot area. Brannigan proceeds to move in before unloading a low shot that beats Briggs just inside the far post for the score. Briggs looked to be partially screened on the shot by a cruising Polaski. Slattengren drew the lone assist on Brannigan’s goal. The score was now 4-2. From there, things went from bad to worse for Minnesota. At the 7:10 mark, the freshman Kaufmann would be called off for a cross-check, putting the Tigers on the power play yet again. This time, the Tigers would make the Gophers pay. At the 8:36 mark, Polaski would extend CC’s lead even further that was the result of some great individual work by Frischmon. The play began with Frischmon driving into the Minnesota zone and then to the net. He does an excellent job of protecting the puck and fending off the Gophers defender all along the way. Frischmon then takes a shot that is stopped by Briggs. However, Briggs gives up just enough of a rebound for Polaski, who was parked in perfect position on the doorstep, to poke in the rebound for the score. About four Gophers players surrounded Briggs and no one took on Polaski, who was left nearly untouched in front. Frischmon drew the lone assist on Polaski’s goal. The score was now 5-2 CC. Another problem that the Gophers had throughout the game and was very evident in this period was their seemingly reluctance of driving to the net. Many of the Gophers shots were taken well out of the crease area, allowing Zaba to see shots coming and if necessary, cut down the angles. This was perhaps the most striking contrast between the two teams in this game. At the 14:41 mark, Polaski was called off for a cross check. At the 16:30 mark, Peltier would close the gap a bit with a power play goal. The play began with Vannelli getting a pass from junior Andy Sertich (PIT) [no relation to CC’s Marty Sertich]. Vannelli makes a nice feed over to Peltier. Peltier then proceeds to move into the slot area where he fires off a low shot that beats Zaba through traffic and just inside the near post for the score. Vannelli would draw the lone assist. The score was now 5-3 with three and a half minutes left in regulation. The Peltier goal looked to have rejuvenated the Gophers, but that would be short lived. At the 18-minute mark, a scary moment took place as Chucko gave Sterling a hard check into the boards. Sterling was down on the ice for a few moments before being able to skate off under his own power and appearing to be no worse for wear. Chucko received a checking from behind 5-minute major and a game misconduct (one box score said that he got a DQ). That put the Tigers on the power play for the remainder of the game and effectively ending any hope of Minnesota pulling Briggs for an extra attacker. The Tigers simply ran down the clock with no real sense of urgency. The sweep by the Tigers at Mariucci was the first sweep by a visiting team since 2003. With the sweep, CC will likely take over the top spot in the polls, which will be released tomorrow.
Aside from the play of Briggs and Kaufmann, the Gophers play was mediocre at best for two of three periods in this game. Kellen Briggs was hung out to dry for much of the game, especially in the third. He was very sharp at times and did his very best to keep his team in the game. Evan Kaufmann created some outstanding scoring chances early and for much of the game, worked his butt off. Alex Goligoski, who made several defensive mistakes in the game, didn't look to have a particularly good overall game. Compound that to the fact that he looked fatigued, likely from the work and whatever stress he might be carrying over from the WJC. Two Tigers who played exceptional well in this game were Matt Zaba and Joey Crabb. Zaba got off to a shaky start but was absolutely brilliant, particularly in the second period for CC. He was tested often in the first two periods and was up to the task, despite allowing three goals. Crabb, who seems to save his best hockey for the Gophers, was outstanding. He created several good scoring opportunities and made it a habit of driving and/or crashing the net whenever possible. Another CC player who played well was sophomore defenseman Lee Sweatt. Sweatt, a vastly underrated defenseman, was up to challenge of having to cover some of the best Gophers players all night. He also displayed his willingness to block shots often as well.
The Gophers travel to the Midwest Wireless Civic Center next weekend where they will take on host and conference rival Minnesota State-Mankato. The Tigers will return home to Colorado Springs where they will once again be involved in another marquee matchup next weekend when they welcome conference North Dakota to World Arena.
[1 – 0 MN] Jake Fleming (Michael Vannelli, Alex Goligoski)
[1 – 1 CC] Scott Thauwald (Joey Crabb)
This week end the gopgers could have mad alot of excuses. We were at home vegging out during winter break. Persoanlly i would rather have played a road game. Hagemo and Goligoski were coming back from the WJC. Briggs has played in every game cept one. And IMO he looks tired after consistintly seeing odd man rushes. But the we got out played, hustled and worked for the majority of the week end. The only bright spots were our guys when giving the best of oppurtunites scored. Irman in the slot wide open, buries it. Guyer on a mini break scores. And Briggs continues to do what he does. As only a FA sophmore. Make be OK for young team to lose like this at home. I only hope we bounce back and destroy Mankato. It could go south with a young team too.
I couldn't be more proud of my town's school. I really didn't know if CC would pull it off. They're my team but you always have doubts. Petiot was out and numerous players had the flu. I just wish the Tigers wouldn't have lost Thauwauld for the season, he was having a great series.