Minneapolis, MN – For the first time in what feels like a very long time, the Minnesota Gophers have come out on top in a clash of the state’s college hockey programs.
A 5-2 Saturday win over a strong Bemidji State team and a gratifying 4-1 Sunday triumph over coach Bob Motzko’s former SCSU Huskies capped off a Mariucci Classic victory and, more importantly, a successful start to the second half of the season for the Minnesota Gophers (7-9-4 Overall, 2-4-4-3 B1G).
For a team that struggled to a 5-9-4 record in the first half, the quality result coming out of the break was good to see for this Gopher team.
The Gophers seemed to have stolen one on Saturday night, coming back from two one-goal deficits to tie it 2-2 in the third before Blake McLaughlin gave Minnesota their first lead late in the third. The Gophers would tack on two empty net goals to beat the Bemidji State Beavers (8-7-3, 8-3-1 WCHA) by a 5-2 margin.
Sunday’s game was a different feeling, with Minnesota scoring three goals in 1:40 early in the second period and holding on the rest of the way. Again, the Gophers added an empty netter to seal the 4-1 victory over St. Cloud State (6-8-4, 3-5-0 NCHC). SCSU was a surprise 7-2 winner over #2 Minnesota State in their game on Saturday, and the Mavericks (16-3-1, 10-2-0 WCHA) beat conference rival Bemidji State in Sunday’s third-place game.
The two Gopher wins came without Sampo Ranta in the lineup – the sophomore has been the team’s best player so far, and he is currently away playing in the World Juniors for Finland.
Jack LaFontaine was in goal for both victories for Minnesota. The junior transfer has now started four games in a row, going 2-1-1 in the process.
Scott Reedy (3G) and Sammy Walker (2G) were the Gophers’ multiple-goal scorers on the weekend. In Ranta’s absence, Reedy’s three goals vaulted him to first on the team with nine total. Walker and Ranta both have seven goals, and Walker’s goal Sunday was his first non-empty-net goal since late October. It would be great for the team to see him get it going again.
The Gophers have a week off before traveling to Munn Ice Arena to take on a surprisingly good Michigan State team. The Spartans haven’t been good in what feels like ages, but are currently T-2nd in the Big Ten standings and are ranked #18. It will be another good test for this young Gopher team, who need to pick it up if they want to make a run at getting back into the NCAA tournament.