Gophers Beat Buckeyes, Inch Closer to Big Ten Title
Win clinches Top-2 seed in the Big Ten Tournament
The calendar has turned to March and the stretch run is here. Everything seems to get extra tough this time of year – no matter the opponent or where you are playing. As a young team, it’s certainly plausible that you could argue the last two regular season series would be extra tough for the Maroon & Gold. But the Gophers really stuck with it after a few rough patches in the first period and took care of business on Friday night against Ohio State with a 5 – 1 win.
Goldy got off to a great start as Justin Kloos popped home a rebound from Taylor Cammarata and it was 1 – 0 early. After Connor Reilly just missed a wide open chance in front which really would have put the Buckeyes on their heels early, OSU really turned the tables. They pinned the Gophers in their zone for a few long stretches but the Gophers battled out of it. They ended up with a late power play and increased the lead to 2 – 0 at intermission when Kyle Rau scooped in a rebound from his place to the right of the net.
Taylor Cammarata got the Gophers up 3 – 0 with a great one-time shot from the circle as the 2nd period got underway. It was the 2nd power play goal of the game for the Gophers and the game was teetering. Unfortunately, Tanner Fritz was able to knock in a rebound just seconds later after a fortunate bounce got the Buckeyes a short breakaway.
But, before OSU could gain any momentum, the Gophers put the game away with two quick goals. First, Connor Reilly atoned for his pipe shot in the first period by tipping home a Justin Holl blast from the point. Then, less than 30 seconds later, Vinny Lettieri continued the freshman onslaught by whipping a turnaround type shot just over the goal line after stealing the puck in the corner to the left of the OSU net, which finished the scoring.
So – where does this leave the Gophers in terms of Big Ten play? With just three games to play, they lead Wisconsin by seven points. So they just need to win one of their next three games to outright clinch the first Big Ten Hockey title in the modern era. The 4G/4A effort by the freshmen class also ensured that the Gophers would not finish lower than the #2 slot so they will get a bye in the first round of the tournament in two weeks.
Game two of the series will be Senior Night for the Buckeyes and possibly Championship clinching night for the Gophers, which starts at 5:30 and will be televised on ESPNNEWS.
Battle Hymn Plays as Gophers Sweep Nittany Lions
Serratore scores game-winner in 2-1 win on senior night
Minneapolis, Minn. – Don Lucia set the table for senior night by starting all five of his seniors and his senior class delivered. Michael Shibrowski made 26 saves and Tom Serratore got the game-winning goal as Minnesota defeated Penn State 2-1 in front of 10,045 at Mariucci Arena.
“It’s a pretty good moment. Last run here on the big pond, so I couldn’t ask for a better moment to end my career here on Mariucci,” said Serratore. “Our line was buzzing for the most part and we started to connect there. Our team had a rough second period, so we went back in the locker room after and talked about what we needed to do to get the job done. Fortunately our line stepped up and was able to put one away.”
The Gophers (23-4-5, 12-2-2 Big Ten) go into the final two weekends of conference play with a seven-point lead over Wisconsin. If the Gophers take care of business, it could cap a heck of a turnaround for a program that was swept by Alaska-Anchorage in the WCHA playoffs four years ago. The class followed-up that early playoff exit with a back-to-back MacNaugton Cups, and have a potential inaugural Big Ten regular season title and third consecutive NCAA playoff trip ahead of them.
Looking back, the 2010-11 class was a bit of a change for Minnesota recruiting. Lucia added some age and grit to his lineup with Serratore and Parenteau. He also went a little off the radar with Nate Condon an older recruit from Wausau, Wisc. And then he got lucky to add a guy like Justin Holl. The Chicago second round pick has turned out to be such a team guy, switching positions from defense to forward and back to defense.
“It’s not only important to have your “blue chip” players that you recruit, but you also have to have some great role players too that understand their role, accept their role, are great teammates, and then can contribute when called upon,” said Lucia.
Lucia also added a back-up goalie to this class in Shibrowski. The goalie has only played in seven games but has given the team all they could ask for in a back-up goalie and Lucia felt he owed him the start on senior night.
“It’s not easy to be a number two or number three goaltender in hockey, we don’t play that many games. Obviously if Adam wasn’t having the kind of couple years he’s had, Shibby would have been able to get more games in,” said Lucia. “He’s taken it with grace. All he does is every day he works hard, he prepares, he stays out after practice, he’s out early--I can’t say enough good things about what a quality person Mike Shibrowski is.”
The game was Shibrowski’s second start of the season, and his teammates didn’t give him an easy night. Shibrowski didn’t get pushed around in his crease like when he played against Minnesota State in November, but the Nittany Lions made it a game for the entire 60 minutes Saturday.
“We play great team defense. Coach Guentzel does a great job with our guys making sure we take care of our end first, and it goes right on down the line to coach Lucia,” said Shibrowski. “That’s the main thing they stress, take care of our end, and that builds the offense.”
Penn State coach Guy Gadowsky got his team to play better positional hockey, back pressure the puck carrier harder, and block some shots. Penn State goalie PJ Musico also played a solid game in just his fifth game of the season and his teammates routinely cleared out the crease on loose pucks.
Still, it was Minnesota who controlled the pace of play and it was the Gophers who got on the board first. Travis Boyd skated the puck out from the corner, across the crease, and his first shot went off the goalie’s leg pad, but he put the rebound over the sprawling tender for his ninth goal of the season at 12:37. Michael Brodzinksi in his first game back from injury picked up an assist, as did Seth Ambroz
The Nittany Lions evened the score late in the second period. Defenseman Connor Varley hit one of his forwards on a stretch pass at the far blue line, and Curtis Loik skated in behind the Gopher defense, and put the puck in the upper right corner to tie the game at 17:14.
Serratore got the game winner at 13:15 with his third goal of the season. Boyd had tried to get the puck to the net, but misfired it up in the air. Serratore was able to get his stick on the bouncing puck and directed it into the top corner.
The Gophers are on the road for the next two weekends with series at Ohio State and Michigan before the Big Ten tournament at Xcel Energy Center.
“[This group] has hung some banners, and that’s what it’s about is trying to hang banners in this program and have success at the end of the year,” said Lucia. “Hopefully the way things ended last year, we can learn from it and have a better ending this year.”
Golden Nuggets: the Gophers improved to 15-1-3 at the venue this season, the one loss at Mariucci Arena is the fewest in a season in the facility’s 20-year history… the first power play unit of Mike Reilly, Taylor Cammarata, Kyle Rau, Boyd, and Hudson Fasching stuck together, while Brodzinski joined the second unit of Ben Marshall, Ambroz, Nate Condon, and Justin Kloos… the power play groups went 0-2 on the night with two shots… Heart of the Game was Serratore...Stars of the Game #3 Boyd, #2 Shibrowski, and #1 Serratore… Minnesota will practice the rest of the season at Ridder Arena as they’re done with Olympic size ice-sheets and will be on NHL sized rinks the rest of the way.
Gophers Steamroll Nittany Lions
Five Unanswered Goals Lead Minnesota to 5-1 Win
Minneapolis - There are two ways a team can come out of a weekend off: sloppy, or rested.
The Gophers were a bit of both Friday night, struggling in the very early minutes of the first period before finding their legs and flattening the Penn State Nittany Lions 5-1 at Mariucci Arena.
Minnesota (22-4-5 Overall, 11-2-2-0 B1G) came into the game nursing a slender one point lead in the B1G standings with two games in hand over the Wisconsin Badgers, who are idle this weekend. The Gophers could definitely use the points to regain their comfortable cushion in the league standings, and a dominating win tonight went a long way towards restoring that.
Penn State (6-21-2, 2-12-1-0) got an early powerplay in the first and capitalized, taking a 1-0 lead on a bungled Minnesota line change just 3:12 into the game. Another bad change led to a 2-on-0 chance for PSU, but Adam Wilcox made a big save to keep Minnesota within striking distance at 1-0 down.
Early on in the period, head coach Don Lucia was shuffling the lines due to the absence of Tom Serratore. Serratore, who dressed for the game, left sometime in the first period. Official ‘U’ sources say that Serratore left the game with an “upper body injury”, but that it was precautionary and he shouldn’t be out for too long.
The Gophers would tighten up and quickly turn the tables on the Nittany Lions, knotting the score at 1-1 just 7:55 into the period. Mike Reilly intercepted a pass at the blueline before finding a streaking Sam Warning at the top of the right circle, who ripped a snapshot past PSU goalie Matthew Skoff and into the back of the net.
Minnesota would continue the scoring barrage minutes later, when Hudson Fasching popped the puck in after a few frenzied seconds in front of the Penn State net to put the Gophers ahead for good. Minnesota would tack on another goal at 16:10 when Fasching, on a breakaway, somehow found Kyle Rau trailing just behind the play and passed it to him for an easy goal. Nate Condon would get another puck across the line late in the first, but after review the goal was disallowed due to an early whistle by the referee.
Up 3-1 after one period, the Gophers would continue to press their advantage in the second. Taylor Cammarata scored just 30 seconds into the period on the powerplay. The next few minutes featured a bevy of penalties, with the Gophers taking four penalties and drawing two in just over a five minute stretch. Minnesota would add to its lead on the penalty kill, with Nate Condon scoring the Gophers’ first shorthanded goal of the season unassisted at 12:30 of the frame to make the game 5-1.
Although the Gophers would have many chances throughout the rest of the second and the third, the Condon shorthanded goal would end the scoring, and Minnesota skated away with a 5-1 win and a 4 point lead in the B1G standings over Wisconsin.
The Gophers will look to complete the sweep of the Nittany Lions on Saturday night. Minnesota will also honor its seniors before the last home game of the season. The puck drops at 6PM, so get there early if you want to pay tribute to Gopher seniors Justin Holl, Jake Parenteau, Michael Shibrowski, Tom Serratore and Nate Condon.
Notes & Quotes
3 Stars of the Game: 3) Adam Wilcox (30 Saves), 2) Mike Reilly (2 assists), 1) Hudson Fasching (1 goal, 1 assist)
Other Gopher Point-Getters: Travis Boyd (2a), Kyle Rau (1g), Sam Warning (1g), Nate Condon (1g), Taylor Cammarata (1g), Ben Marshall (1a)
Specialty Teams: Gophers 1-3 on the powerplay, Penn State 1-5
Final Shots on Goal: Minnesota 36, Penn State 31. Attempted shots were 68-46 in favor of the Gophers.
The win moves the Gophers to 35 points in the B1G standings, 4 ahead of Wisconsin’s 31 and 10 ahead of Michigan’s 25. Wisconsin can max out at 43 points if they win out, so the Gophers can clinch at least a share of the B1G title with eight more points. Nine points (three non-shootout wins) will clinch the league title outright.
Gopher head coach Don Lucia, on the success of the first line: “The Rau line was good tonight, it’s good to see them get going.” On tonight’s goal scorers: “The guys we need to score scored goals tonight. At the end of the year you need your best players to score.” On Tom Serratore’s injury: “He was dinged up tonight. We’ll see how he’s feeling tomorrow and go from there.” On whether senior goalie Michael Shibrowski will play on Senior Night tomorrow night: "There's a good chance of it."
Hudson Fasching, on the Rau breakaway goal: “Yeah, I actually saw him out of the corner of my eye. I was on my off hand so I didn’t really have a shot, so I passed it to him and I guess it worked out pretty well.”
Gophers Overcome Flat First to Beat Michigan 4-1
Series Sweep Puts Gophers 7 Points Clear of Wisconsin, 12 Ahead of Michigan & Ohio State
Minneapolis – Coming off a sweep at the hands of the Wisconsin Badgers last weekend, the Minnesota Gophers (20-4-5 Overall, 9-2-2-0 B1G) saw their once formidable lead in the B1G conference standings shrink to just four points over the Badgers and six over the Michigan Wolverines. With the Wolverines coming into town, the Gophers knew what they had to do to maintain their lead.
A 4-1 win Saturday night completed the sweep for Minnesota, who extended their B1G conference lead to 7 points over Wisconsin and 12 points over the Wolverines and Ohio State in the process.
The first period was a sloppy one for the Gophers. Michigan took an early 1-0 lead at just 1:31 of the period when Andrew Sinelli scored his first of the season on a shot from the high slot. Michigan would retain the advantage in play for the remainder of the period, looking much crisper than the Gophers in the first.
Unlike the Wolverines last night, though, the Gophers were able to score before their “bad period” ended to go into the locker room tied. Sam Warning scored his 11th of the year at 17:46 on a tip out front off a Kyle Rau shot along the ice from the right wing boards, and just like that the game was 1-1.
Both teams came out strong in the second, trading two-on-one chances back and forth early in the frame. The puck luck started to turn the Gophers’ way in the second period. Connor Reilly’s booming slapshot on a Minnesota odd-man rush struck paydirt to give the Gophers a 2-1 lead at 2:53 of the second. Just minutes later, Michigan’s own two-on-one rush was thwarted when the Wolverine player beat Adam Wilcox, but his shot clanked hard off the post / crossbar joint and clattered harmlessly away.
The middle period was full of more up-and-down action, but neither team was able to dent the twine again until Nate Condon scored at 15:20 to give the Gophers an important two-goal lead. Vinni Lettieri curled out of the corner with the puck and found Condon streaking up the high slot. The senior captain’s shot snuck through Michigan goalie Racine’s five-hole to make it 3-1, and the score would stay that way until the end of the period.
The Gophers would further add to their lead in the third period, as Hudson Fasching struck on a five-minute Minnesota powerplay to make it 4-1 at 8:37. The three goal lead would never be relinquished, and the Gophers would skate off with a sweep as the clock struck zero.
The Gophers have next week off before entering the stretch run of the season. They host Penn State February 28th and March 1st, before traveling to Ohio State and Michigan to round out the season.
Notes & Quotes:
Three stars of the game: 3) Hudson Fasching, 2) Connor Reilly, 1) Adam Wilcox
The final shots on goal were Michigan 29, Minnesota 24
Minnesota’s powerplay was only 1-5, but they held Michigan scoreless in all seven of their powerplay chances
Don Lucia, on the flow of the game: “The most important goal for us tonight was our first one.” On the break next week: “We have some bumps and bruises, but we should be back to 100% after the break.”
Connor Reilly, on the fourth line stepping up: “Coach sat us down on Wednesday and challenged us to step up. We’ve had one or two guys [on the fourth line] have good games, but we haven’t all been good as a three-man unit before. It was good for all three guys to play well.” On the slapshot: “I was trying to just blow it past him.”
Nate Condon, on scoring some goals: (visibly relieved) “It felt good!” On getting “separation goals” this weekend: “That was definitely key. It’s a lot easier playing with a two- or three-goal lead than a one-goal lead.” On the John Mayasich ceremony Friday night: “It was great to meet him, he seems like a really nice guy. Coach Guentzel came in before the game and told us his stat lines, and just about his story and Olympic triumphs.” On what Mayasich told them: “He told us to start scoring more, so maybe his touch rubbed off on us a little. He had enough points himself!”
Minnesota Mauls Michigan 5-3
Gophers win first game over Wolverines since November 2010
Minneapolis, Minn.—The ‘first’ Big Ten Title is a three-horse race between Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin. The Gophers let Wisconsin get back into things last weekend, but #2 Minnesota (20-4-5) won a 5-3 race-horse hockey game over the #10 Wolverines (14-8-3) Friday to assert themselves as the leader down the stretch in front of 10,002 at Mariucci Arena.
“When you play Michigan, you understand they usually have a great 10 minute game to start out,” said Gophers coach Don Lucia. “We talked about it in our meetings and we wanted to make sure we matched that energy.”
Minnesota controlled play throughout the first 20 minutes outshooting Michigan 16-5. The Wolverines looked cautious on the big ice, leaving big gaps for Minnesota to gain speed through the neutral zone and Michigan kept getting beat to loose pucks in their own end.
“It was a good paced game, and we should be able to play in that kind of game and we did eventually,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “But we got ourselves behind the eight-ball, you can’t come in here and let them take a commanding lead like that—although we escaped the first period with only a 1-0 deficit.”
Justin Kloos was the player who gave Minnesota that 1-0 lead, scoring his 10th goal of the season 5:29 into the first period. Nate Condon kicked the puck toward the neutral zone, Kloos stepped right into it, deking a Michigan defender onto his knees along the way, and then shooting it in off the near post.
“Condon made a great play to get the puck off the wall, and he got the puck to me going full speed in the middle of the ice,” said Kloos. “Their D was kind of standing flat footed, so I tried to get him off balance a little bit and made a wide move, threw the puck wide side, and luckily it went it.”
Hudson Fasching also got his 10th of the year and gave the Gophers a 2-0 lead just 1:19 into the second period. Fasching split a pair of Michigan defensemen to get in the clear, made a move to open up the five-hole, and then laid a backhand through the opening.
Andrew Copp got Michigan on the board by finding some open ice on the power play and getting off a one-time through Adam Wilcox at 9:45 to make the score 2-1. Taylor Cammarata got the two-goal lead right back for Minnesota. While a Michigan defenseman fumbled the puck at his own blue line off the draw, Cammarata pounced and capitalized by scoring his seventh of the season at 9:51. Seth Ambroz then scored his team leading 13th goal of the season by tipping a Warning shot past Michigan goalie Steve Racine to give Minnesota its first power play goal of the night at 17:29 and a 4-1 lead.
JT Compher got a second power play goal for the Wolverines 18:35 in the second period as he skated right to the net on a two-on-one rush, putting it top shelf to make the score 4-2. Michigan got within one goal 2:47 into the third period when Zach Hyman won a board battle, made a strong move off the wall, and then tucked the puck inside the far post.
The Gophers fourth line of three freshman chipped in with a goal late in the third period as Gabe Guertler finished off a solid passing play from Connor Reilly and Vinni Lettieri for his first goal as a Gopher at 15:21. It was the team’s fourth goal from a freshman on the night, giving the freshman class 41 of the team’s 102 goals this season.
“You get to this time of year and you hope they’re not freshman anymore,” said Lucia. “It’s mid-February and we had six freshman forwards in our lineup tonight. They have to play, they have to make plays, and tonight they did.“
The game got more physical as the night went on and both teams answered the bell. Justin Holl dumped a Wolverine in front of his own bench in the third, and Michigan defenseman Michael Downing was assessed a five-minute major and game misconduct for chasing down Kyle Rau and delivering ‘contact to the head’ late in the game. Surely, the three-and-a-half layoff in this rivalry hasn’t cooled it between the two teams.
“Michigan is kind of a jawing team in general, they like to chirp out there,” said Fasching. “I think that definitely adds to it. I was chirping with JT and Copp and those guys out there the whole time. It makes a little more fun, you know.”
The two teams face each other again Saturday night at the traditional 7:10 PM puck drop with television back on Fox Sports North and ESPN1500 providing radio coverage again.
GOLDEN NUGGETS: Minnesota freshman have scored 41 goals this season. That’s good enough for the class to lead the nation as Boston College’s freshman class entered the weekend with 38 goals scored… Ambroz 3rd star, Guertler 2nd star, and 1st star and Heart of the Game was Warning… Lucia was happy to see Guertler and fourth line rewarded with a goal for the strong game they played Friday… Michigan outshot Minnesota 38-37, the seventh time the Gophers have been outshot… Lucia went back to the lines he started the year with, but he didn’t change up the power play units he’s been putting out lately. They went 1-8 against Michigan. The penalty kill units didn’t look too different, but uncharacteristically gave up two goals on three chances.