Tonight’s opening game of the Huskies-Gophers home and home would be one of only two times the Gophers see St. Cloud during the regular year, and the game provided action that hockey fans crave throughout.
St. Cloud looked to be the better team (as the USCHO poll proves, having been twelfth entering tonight’s play) in the first ten minutes, and proved this when Jared Raboin scored an even strength goal at 7:37 with help from Jared Festler and Ryan Lasch. The goal was Raboin’s fifth on the season. Both teams would have rushes throughout the period, but I felt like St. Cloud was the more aggressive team in period one. Jared Festler would put a pretty shot upstairs on a gorgeous centering feed from Ryan Lasch to put the Huskies up 2-0 on even strength at 16:20. The second assist went to Drew LeBlanc, and it was his tenth. The first penalties of the game finally came at 17:28, when Minnesota had Jacob Cepis going to the box for interference, and St Cloud sent Taylor Johnson to hockey jail for roughing. Neither team earned a power play, because those penalties were offset. Garrett Roe would add his seventh goal of the season at 19:51 to make the Huskies nudge further ahead by a count of 3-0. Sam Zabkowicz (say that fast) added the lone assist (his eighth) on the cracker goal to end the first period. Shots in the first went to Minnesota 13-10, though I wouldn’t be surprised if the shot chart showed that SCSU had the better shots. Whack stat of the period: Giveaways had Minnesota giving the puck up four more times than SCSU (6-2) which is like a pitcher in baseball having a high earned-run average. Neither team had a man-advantage in the first thanks to the coincidental at 17:28.
The second period would give Gopher fans hope when Tony Lucia scored from a “stupid angle” at 2:18 on even strength and the goal was Tony’s seventh. Aaron Ness assisted him on the feed to the left wing, before Tony put it through a hole in Dan Dunn’s catcher. Midway through the second period, the Gophers would find some offensive chances, but Lucia’s goal would be the only one that leaked through in the first ten minutes. Garrett Roe capitalized on a Minnesota “hot potato” turnover when David Eddy scored his sixth goal of the season at 6:12. He was assisted by Tony Mosey (tenth assist) and Taylor Johnson (his fourth). Jacob Cepis would get help from Aaron Ness on a goal at 9:07 on even strength that’d rise past Dan Dunn and make the score 4-2. The goal was Cepis’ fifth, and Ness’ eighth assist. The Gophers would go on the power play in the final third of the period stemming from a SCSU cross checking penalty to Chris Hepp at 13:06. No shots stemmed from the opening power play of the game for the Gophers. The second power play of the game for the Gophers came on a play with contact to the head at 16:45 to SCSU’s Nick Ostlund. Jake Hansen scored the Gophers’ third goal of the game at 18:10 with help from Jacob Cepis and Jordan Schroeder (his fourteenth assist, compared to Cepis only having two on the year) on a play that would be akin to a football running back making a dandy second effort. Jake Hansen got sent to the bin late in the period for SCSU’s first power play opportunity of the game (holding at 19:08). Power plays through two had SCSU go 0-0+, which means they would bring 1:08 of advantage into the third, and the Gophers were 1-2 in the second. Shots in period two had the Gophers outshooting SCSU 15-7, for a total of 28-15 through two periods.
The Gophers would successfully defend the power play stemming from the second period, and let me give credit to Alex Kangas for being stingy enough to save his defensemen’s bacon both in the power play and the time after that ended. Play settled down for the latter part of the first 3:00, and then picked up again as both teams went from end to end. The Gophers would have to kill another SCSU power play at 3:52 when Josh Birkholz went to jail for a textbook tripping call at center ice. Luckilly for him, the Gophers were able to man up and kill off the power play that St Cloud State had. As the close of the game drew nearer, the Gophers would pick up their intensity throughout the third period. Four total penalties really didn’t do much to hinder the intensity that both teams brought, and the Gophers tried to battle in the final minute for the tying goal, but came up short. SCSU went 0-3 in the advantage for 0-4 overall, and the Gophers went 0-1 in the third for 1-3 on the man-up for the game. Shots in the third went to St Cloud 16-14, but Minnesota won that stat 42-33.
The Gophers are next in action on Hockey Day (tomorrow) at 5pm when they take on the same St. Cloud State Huskies at Mariucci Arena, and I’ll be there to report on my findings in the postgame like tonight. The TV broadcast will be a part of FSN’s Hockey Day coverage, and the game will be preceded by two high school telecasts, with the Gophers Live pregame scheduled for 4:30pm.
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Until tomorrow evening, I’ll see you at the rink!