Golden Gophers upset No. 2 UMD 3-2 FridayMinnesota Sports
-- Knocking off the No. 2-ranked team when things haven’t exactly gone well this season was quite an elixir Friday night as Minnesota stopped Minnesota Duluth 3-2 in a fight-to-the-finish Western Collegiate Hockey Association men’s game before 9,805 fans at Mariucci Arena.
By: Kevin Pates - Duluth News Tribune, Pierce County Herald
MINNEAPOLIS — Knocking off the No. 2-ranked team when things haven’t exactly gone well this season was quite an elixir Friday night as Minnesota stopped Minnesota Duluth 3-2 in a fight-to-the-finish Western Collegiate Hockey Association men’s game before 9,805 fans at Mariucci Arena.
The Gophers (9-7-1 overall, 6-6-1 WCHA) never trailed, yet had to hold off the league-leading Bulldogs, including a Kent Patterson save on Justin Fontaine in the waning seconds.
UMD (12-3-2, 9-3-1) trailed 1-0 and 3-1 before playing a stellar third period, outshooting Minnesota 17-7 and getting a power-play goal from freshman defenseman Justin Faulk with 4:53 to play.
“We knew this was a big game, a big series. We’re playing the No. 2 team, we’ve struggled at home, we were coming off two losses last weekend and it’s the last series of the first half of the season. We wanted to get a bad taste out of our mouths,” said junior winger Nico Sacchetti of Virginia, who scored Minnesota’s second goal.
Minnesota came into the game 1-3 the past four games (4-5-1 at home), while UMD was 6-1 the past seven overall. The Gophers, however reached two statistical marks that have been in their favor — now 8-0-1 when scoring first and 8-1-1 when gaining three or more goals in a game. Some observers labeled the performance Minnesota’s best of the season.
The Bulldogs led 39-32 in final shots on goal, but a poor second period put UMD in a bad position, being outscored 2-0. UMD had the only goal of the third period.
“Our first two periods weren’t great,” Fontaine said. “We showed how we can play in the third period and really had more than enough chances to tie the game or win it. We couldn’t get another one past Patterson. He was good.”
The teams exchanged first-period goals. Minnesota center Nick Larson put the puck through Kenny Reiter’s legs from the slot early. Then, with time running down, center Jack Connolly took a Faulk pass at the right circle and beat Patterson to the near side. UMD’s scoring leader connected on a power play with 14 seconds to go in the first.
Sacchetti’s second goal of the season came from high in the slot at 6:53 of the second period, and winger Jay Barriball received a couple of fortunate bounces off of shin pads and ultimately the puck went off Reiter’s left skate with 6:24 to go in the second. It was Barriball’s first goal in seven games
“We could’ve played a much better period. We’ve shown in other games that we can battle back to win games if we give it our all, and that’s what we gave in the third period,” said Faulk, who has six goals.
The final period was typical of the WCHA’s highest-scoring team. The Bulldogs were all over Patterson and drew within one goal on Faulk’s power-play blast from the left faceoff circle.
Fifteen of UMD’s 17 games have been decided by two goals or less.
“I didn’t like our second period; we were flat,” said UMD coach Scott Sandelin. “We asked our guys to go out and give us a chance to win in the third period, and they did. Patterson was the difference in the game.”
The loss dropped UMD out of first place. North Dakota rallied to win 4-3 at Minnesota State-Mankato and has 20 points. UMD is second with 19.
UMD was without injured defenseman Wade Bergman, while Minnesota lost senior defenseman Cade Fairchild to a first-period injury.
“Our goalie has to play well for us to do well. And our third and fourth lines were good,” said Minnesota coach Don Lucia. “We’ve had a lot of other games where we’ve played just as well and haven’t been rewarded.”