The Minnesota Golden Gophers had one question on their minds as they entered game two tonight with North Dakota. Do we win and stay alive, or lose and go home?
The Gophers and Fighting Sioux would play the first five minutes like the opening few seconds of an arm wrestling match, which means they were feeling out changes made by both sides as a result of last night. The Gophers outshot UND 2-1 in the first five minutes, and the man between the pipes for UM (Kangas) seemed stingier as did his defensive mates. Momentum would flip-flop between the two teams, and Minnesota was well-behaved in terms of penalties in the second five minute “quarter.” Penalties were an Achilles heel last night for the Gophers. Whoever would score the first goal would control the game flow, and through the first fifteen minutes you had play from end to end and both teams were pretty well-behaved. A long awaited rarity? Methinks so. Having no penalties in almost fifteen minutes says a lot. Right on cue, Seth Helgeson would take the first penalty (roughing minor) for Minnesota at 15:39, and Brad Malone got a roughing call as well (15:39) for a collision (between Helgeson and Malone) which knocked the Gopher net off its pegs. Yet another rarity came at 17:08 when Brad Eidsness (the goalie) committed a tripping penalty which the Gophers would convert off of in a tic-tac-toe type play only twelve seconds later. Mike Hoeffel converted on the power play (his thirteenth) at 17:20 with assists by Jacob Cepis and Cade Fairchild. Tony Lucia would give North Dakota their first power play on a hooking minor at 19:10. Power plays through one period had Minnesota going 1-1 and North Dakota on their first power play (Lucia penalty). Shots through one were 14-3 UND, but it only takes one shot to lead where it counts.
Kevin Wehrs would start the second period in the bin at 1:19 when he committed a tripping penalty to Chris VandeVelde that looked incidental. North Dakota would not convert on that “friendly” call bringing their power play total through 23:45 (game time) to 0-2. Later on in the period, North Dakota would pull the rope back their way with a Chris VandeVelde shot only becoming a pipe dream (hitting the crossbar). The Gophers were cutting off shooting lanes for the Sioux, thus keeping pretty plays at a minimum midway through the period. Corban Knight would say “whatever you can do, I can do better” on a juicy rebound given up by Alex Kangas. That’d be Knight’s fifth goal of the season assisted by Danny Kristo and Darcy “Jac Attack” Zajac at 7:03 on even strength. Brad Eidsness would not be excused from giving up rebounds as well, but midway through the second period, North Dakota would keep itself in it by playing defense. Patrick White would get called for hooking at 11:48 when he brought a Sioux attacker down. Seth Helgeson and Brett Hextall would get called for matching roughing minorsat 13:27, so Patrick White’s penalty would continue giving UND a power play, which they weren’t able to convert on making 0-3 on the night to that point for the Sioux. The problems for UND would continue when Darcy Zajac got nailed for an open-ice check from behind, thus only a two-minute minor offense at 15:44 which went without a goal for the Gophers. The game would return to the point at which we started, where both teams would chase the goal to take the lead. Minnesota went 0-1 on the power play for 1-2 on the first two periods and North Dakota went 0-3 in the period for 0-3 overall, as previously documented. Shots were 14-11 in the second to the Sioux for 28-14 overall, or 2-1 on average for you math majors.
The third period had that “chase like” start to it, where both teams concentrated their play at mid-ice for the most part in the first four minutes of period three. But the Gophers would regain momentum and the young guns would step up and tell the tale for the Gophers. The Sioux would also step up in the third, and Matt Frattin would score his eighth goal on the year at 10:44 from an assist by Chris VandeVelde. Eighty-six seconds later, at 12:10, Bowling Green transfer Jacob Cepis would become clutch and put the Gophers on level terms with a power play goal off a Ben Blood tripping call at 11:17. Seth Helgeson would score his first collegiate goal on a roof shot at 12:58 (even strength) with a pass coming from Nico Sacchetti. At this time, the Gophers were a well-oiled machine. Jordan Schroeder would stick a fourth goal in on an empty net situation from a UND bench minor for too many men when he lit the lamp from the middle of the zone. Alex Kangas and Tony Lucia were credited with assists on the outlet play at 19:59. Power plays in the third went 2-2 for Minnesota for 3-4 overall, and North Dakota had no opportunities with a man up to keep their total at 0-3. Shots in the third went 15-12 to North Dakota, and the Sioux won that stat 43-26.
The Golden Gophers and Sioux will come back live for the playoff finale (to the loser) with the winner moving to the Final Five. Coverage will start at 6:30pm on Fox Sports North, but due to a Wild commitment (playing the Blues), consult http://www.foxsportsnorth.com for alternate channel listings.
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Until next time, I’ll see you at the rink!