This was the Gophers first trip to National Hockey Center in St. Cloud since the 2002-03 season. It was a low scoring affair that was decided in overtime.
The intensity and physical play began almost from the get-go. That was evident just 33 seconds in when Gophers freshman Kris Chucko (CGY) and Huskies sophomore defenseman Casey Borer (CAR) decided to exchange some not-so-friendly holiday greetings and resulted in matching roughing minors. Borer, who was recently named to Team USA for the upcoming WJC was quite physical throughout this contest. One thing that was evident in the opening period of this game was the several odd-man rushes that both teams were able to get. SCSU sophomore goaltender Tim Boron was outstanding in this game as he made many great stops to keep the Huskies in the game. Things started to get a little chippy once at the 17:33 mark of the period when Minnesota freshman defenseman Derek Peltier (COL) and SCSU junior Joe Jensen (PIT) got together to exchange some how-do-you-dos as well. At the 18:15 mark, junior Gino Guyer (DAL) got the Gophers on the board first on a beautifully executed play. It began with junior Tyler Hirsch dumping a pass to senior defenseman Judd Stevens, who was parked in the high slot area. Stevens spots Guyer all alone, coming toward him from the left face-off circle and proceeds to dish the puck to him. Guyer then comes in on SCSU net and launches a backhander that looked to have gone off the heel of his stick that beats Boron five-hole just inside the post for the score. Stevens and Hirsch drew the assists on Guyer’s tally. The Huskies looked to have had the wind taken out of their sails after Guyer’s goal.
The second period began with Minnesota on the power play after Borer had taken a hooking call at the 20:00-mark of the first period. One of the best chances for SCSU in the game came around the 3:30-mark when sophomore defenseman Justin Fletcher came in on Minnesota sophomore goaltender Kellen Briggs. Briggs, while he wasn’t quite as busy as Boron was for a good portion of the game was spectacular in keeping out Fletcher’s scoring opportunity. However, the Huskies would finally get on the board at the 5:07 mark thanks to a brilliant individual effort by freshman Matt Hartman. The play began near the left corner boards when Hartman picked senior Jerrid Reinholz’s pocket. Hartman then proceeded to skate in towards the Minnesota net. He puts a nice move on Briggs then goes around him and tips in a shot that deflects off of Briggs’ stick going top-shelf into the net for the score. Hartman’s goal was unassisted. Both teams had power play opportunities but were unable to cash in. At about the seven-minute mark, Hartman got another glorious chance to score on a nice wraparound attempt but just couldn’t finish it. As the period winded down, Minnesota junior defenseman Chris Harrington had two very good scoring opportunities. The first just barely missed the net, while the second was stopped by Boron. As the final buzzer sounded to end the period, some tempers began to flare up again, but the players were separated and sent to their respective dressing rooms.
The final period saw perhaps the Huskies best period of play. It didn’t quite start out that way as they had a little trouble keeping out of their own zone. Minnesota freshman Kris Chucko (CGY) got a good scoring opportunity when he was crashing the SCSU net, but the shot ended up ringing off the post. Briggs made his best save and one of the best saves of the game in the midway part of the period, when SCSU senior Dave Ianazzo attempted to score on him. Briggs’s quick lateral movement denied Ianazzo and SCSU the lead. The intensity and sense of urgency really began to be picked up, especially by the Gophers in the last few minutes of the regulation. The Gophers were relentless in trying to score the game-winner in regulation but the stingy Huskies defense prevented that. At the 19:18 mark, SCSU senior defenseman and team captain Matt Gens (VAN) would be called off for a hook, giving the Gophers a glorious power play opportunity. Regulation time would end tied 1-1.
Gens’ penalty continued into overtime. The Huskies successfully killed off Gens’ penalty. One of the best saves that Boron made in the contest came after the penalty had expired. He somehow kept the puck out of the net with the mad scramble and traffic in front of him. At the 2:21 mark, senior Jake Fleming would score the game-winner for the Gophers. It began with a great outlet pass from freshman defenseman Nate Hagemo to Fleming who was in the SCSU zone behind the play that was earlier going into the Minnesota zone. Fleming proceeds to fire a shot from the right face-off circle. The shot looked to have banked off of Justin Fletcher’s skate right back to Fleming, who was at the goal line just to left of Boron. Fleming then tucks the puck just inside the near post behind an outstretched Boron for goal. Hagemo and junior Andy Sertich (PIT) would draw the assists on Fleming’s game winner.
While both goaltenders played well so did several of the players for each team. Minnesota sophomore Danny Irmen, despite not scoring tonight was quite effective both offensively and defensively. SCSU junior Joe Jensen (PIT) played an outstanding game, particularly in the third period. He drew a penalty on Nate Hagemo thanks to some very good work along the boards. He also had several glorious scoring opportunities in the game.
The home-and-home series shifts to Mariucci Arena tomorrow night to conclude the weekend meeting.