Minneapolis, MN – The Gopher Men’s Hockey team had not swept an opponent at home since beating Army December 29th and 30th, 2017.
Minnesota’s outgoing senior class made sure that they’d go out on a positive note.
Seniors Jack Ramsey and Darian Romanko scored the first two goals for the Gophers, and senior Eric Schierhorn earned the win as Minnesota (16-15-4 Overall, 11-10-3 B1G) swept #12 Arizona State (21-12-1) to earn the team’s first home sweep of the season.
Minnesota dressed seven senior skaters Saturday night, and five of them started the game as coach Motzko sent Tyler Sheehy, Brent Gates, Jack Ramsey, Tommy Novak and Jack Sadek out for the opening draw. The sentimental choice paid off, as Jack Ramsey lasered a one-timer past ASU goalie Joey Daccord at 0:42 of the first to give the Gophers a very early 1-0 lead.
Just past the halfway mark of the first, Darian Romanko tipped a Jack Sadek shot past Daccord to put Minnesota up 2-0 10:02 into the game. The goal was Romanko’s first of the season.
The Gophers extended their lead to 3-0 at 13:07 of the first, when Sampo Ranta scored his first goal since December 8th on a deflection in front.
Minnesota was all over ASU in the first, and that trend continued early in the second. An early odd-man rush by the Gophers led to a Brannon McManus goal when ASU defenseman Jacob Wilson chose to blow up Ranta in the middle of the ice instead of playing the game. The 3×2 turned into a 2×1, and senior Tommy Novak found McManus with a nice pass to put Minnesota up 4-0 at 1:07.
The hit on Ranta was about as dirty as they come, and Wilson got a five-minute penalty and a disqualification for it, which means he will be ineligible at least for ASU’s next game (which will be in the NCAA tournament) barring any additional discipline that could be handed down by the WCHA (which handles supplementary discipline for the D1 Independent Arizona State).
The five-minute penalty was a turning point in the game for the Sun Devils, who played a good rest of the second period and clawed themselves back in the game. A shorthanded goal by Dominic Garcia at 5:31 and another goal by Brett Gruber at 13:32 pulled ASU back within two at 4-2 heading into the third.
The final frame was hard-fought, but a Rem Pitlick breakaway goal late in the period sealed the sweep for Minnesota. In the closing moments, senior goaltender Brock Kautz got into the game and made a big save on a Sun Devil shot as time wound down. Schierhorn covered the puck with under a minute left in order to allow Kautz the opportunity to play.
Overall, the seniors tallied two goals and five assists on the evening. The only senior skaters to not register a point were Tyler Sheehy and Ryan Norman.
The Gophers move on to the Big Ten Tournament next, needing to win it all in order to earn a bid to the NCAA Tournament. The team is seemingly playing its best hockey at the right time, having won five of the past six games. Minnesota hosts Michigan for a best-of-three series in the first round of the conference tournament next weekend. If the Gophers win that series, they’ll either travel to Notre Dame the following weekend (if ND wins) or host the winner of the Penn State / Wisconsin series (if ND loses) for a one-game shot to advance to the championship game.
Finally, hats off to the nine-member senior class. Each of these players played their own small part in making Gopher hockey Minnesota’s Pride On Ice. Thank you, Seniors!