The Minnesota Golden Gophers entered tonight’s game with St Cloud State needing a win to help their cause in the national picture. Minnesota entered play tonight at 13th in the Pairwise, and brought Kent Patterson to the nets to counteract St Cloud State’s Mike Lee. Lee had a 3.34 GAA in five previous starts for St Cloud State.
The first shot of the game came in the opening minute to St Cloud State’s Jared Festler, but both teams were flying around the rink at the start. Minnesota’s first shot came near the 2:30 mark from Travis Boyd and we were underway once more from the rink that Mariucci built. The early going was fast and furious which allowed the teams to settle into their own game plans. Through five minutes, shots favored St Cloud State by a slim 2-1 count and both teams were looking for first blood as the period ticked towards its middle. No penalties in the first six minutes contributed to play all over the Olympic-sized sheet of ice, but the defenses were showing themselves to be strong early on. At 7:10, Minnesota’s Kent Patterson made his first major save of the night on a two-on-one break by the Huskies. Shots were 4-1 in favor of St Cloud State through ten minutes played, and the opening frame really was slow in its middle stages. Minnesota’s second shot on goal didn’t come until about the 11:30 mark from Erik Haula, but it was clear that Minnesota’s defensive units were stifling St Cloud shot making similar to how the Huskies were stifling Minnesota. At 12:59, Minnesota’s Mark Alt let a shot go from the slot that found its way to Mike Lee despite defensive traffic. Overall, the period’s first fourteen minutes were like the entirety of a Vikings game—boring. That is, until the 14:26 point, when Minnesota scored the game’s opening goal on their fifth shot when Jake Hansen netted one off an assist from Erik Haula. Minnesota would try to lengthen their lead with opportunities but the shot count favored Minnesota 6-4 at fifteen minutes. The game’s first penalty came as a tripping call at 16:22 when Minnesota’s Sam Warning was caught by the officiating crew. The Warning penalty was killed by Minnesota and shots were 7-7 as the final minute elapsed. At the end of one period, SCSU also had the only power play which they came up empty on.
The first one minute and nineteen seconds of the period were pretty slow until Minnesota unleashed a shot from the low slot which was blocked down. The first penalty of the period went to Tom Serratore as the Gopher was called for a cross check at 2:42. St Cloud State’s second power play of the night would result in the game’s tying goal at 4:26 when Ben Hanowski scored his thirteenth goal of the season on the power play off assists from Andrew Prochno and Jared Festler. As the game drew towards 27:00 played, shots were only 8-8 but that didn’t include a goalpost that SCSU hit on the Serratore power play. At 7:11, SCSU’s Taylor Johnson gave Minnesota its first power play for slashing. The Golden Gopher power play would go to work deep in St Cloud State’s end, but Minnesota would have issues depositing the puck in the Husky net. As the power play ended, shots were 11-8 overall to Minnesota, meaning there weren’t many shots if at all during the man advantage. What really impressed this writer as the thirty-one minute mark passed was how well behaved both Minnesota and SCSU really were. Two combined penalties in thirty one minutes. At 11:49, Minnesota took a 2-1 lead on an even strength play from Nick Bjugstad as Minnesota took the lead on a two-on-one. Bjugstad was assisted in his effort by Jake Hansen and Kyle Rau. Rau’s assist was his thirteenth of the season. Shots to the thirty-three minute mark favored Minnesota 14-8, but the battle was alive and well on both ends of the ice. At 15:16, SCSU’s Mike Lee robbed Jake Hansen on a breakaway that was a sure goal for Minnesota. Down the stretch to the forty minute mark, the game got slower once again but Minnesota was getting the majority of the chances. Shots at thirty-eight minutes were 17-9 for the Gophers as the period was in its final stages. Shots at the end of two periods would favor Minnesota 17-12 and power plays would have Minnesota at 0-1 while St Cloud State was 1-2.
The first minute and change of the third period netted two Minnesota shots on goal, but it was St Cloud State who had to play from behind. At 1:54 of the third period, St Cloud State’s Travis Novak was injured after skates were tangled with a Minnesota player on the penalty box side of the ice. Shots to the forty-four minute mark overall favored Minnesota 21-12, and the middle stages of the third period had the look of being as slow as the whole first period was. There were no penalties in the first seven minutes of the third period, which meant that the clock was slowly becoming the enemy of the Huskies. At 9:03 of the third period, St Cloud State’s Andrew Prochno was called for a two-minute cross checking minor giving Minnesota their second power play of the night. Minnesota couldn’t do much on the Prochno penalty time, and shots were 25-12 to Minnesota when the penalty expired. The final 8:57 of the game would prove to be ctitical for the way the game was to be decided tonight. At 14:05, Minnesota’s Mark Alt would be called for a two minute hooking penalty, giving SCSU their third power play. The man-advantage would give the Huskies plenty of reason to tie the game. The Huskies however could not use their advantage to its full potential and with 3:30 left, the score was still 2-1 in favor of Minnesota. A penalty was called on Minnesota’s Seth Helgeson at 16:35 for cross checking. Shots to begin the power play favored the Gophers 26-13, yet it was the Huskies on the advantage. The Huskies would act like a shooting gallery late, but SCSU couldn’t get a shot to go in. At 18:40, SCSU’s Taylor Johnson would go to the sin bin for a cross check. The final thirty seconds wouldn’t be enough for St Cloud State as time would run out on the Huskies, giving Minnesota a 2-1 win. Shots finished 26-13 to Minnesota, and the Gophers were 0-3 on the power play to St Cloud State’s 1-3.
Minnesota and St Cloud State will get together tomorrow night for a 7pm game at the National Hockey Center in St. Cloud, which you can see on Fox Sports North.
Geoff Discher is modenook.com’s Minnesota Golden Gophers Hockey Examiner as well as the National College Hockey Examiner. Leave a comment below, or feel free to reach him at Disch61@hotmail.com with comments, story ideas, or any general talk surrounding college hockey. You can find him on Facebook as well by clicking here as well as here and joining the conversation from the social media side as well. He’s always chock full of fact and opinion. I’m also on Twitter @GophHkyExmnr. Check it out!
Until next time, I’ll see you at the rink!