No. 6 Minnesota rolled to a 3-0 lead and held onto a 3-1 victory against Michigan Tech in the first round of the WCHA playoffs at Mariucci Arena Friday night.
Minnesota started fast, scoring at 1:51 of the opening stanza on the first shot of the game. Freshman Andy Sertich scored his fifth goal of the season.
The play unfolded innocently enough as Sertich received a pass from linemate Jerrid Reinholz at the Huskies blueline. He drove around the Tech defenseman on his backhand and threw a shot on net for the 1-0 lead.
“We made a mistake and Sertich made us pay for it,” said Huskies coach Mike Sertich.
The remainder of the opening period was quiet; the shots ended up 10-7 in favor of the Gophers.
Fueled by two power plays, Minnesota controlled the opening half of the second period. The Gophers rattled off 11 consecutive shots, including a goal by junior sniper Troy Riddle.
Minnesota goaltender Travis Weber started the play, catching the Huskies on a line change and hitting Tyler Hirsch with a long pass up the left side. Hirsch entered the zone and paused at the top of the left circle for his linemates to enter the play. Hirsch found Riddle coming off the bench, and Riddle wristed a shot past Huskies goalie Cam Ellsworth for a 2-0 lead on the power play at 7:42.
“I was just waiting at the blue line and Travis made a great play,” said Hirsch. “I saw Riddle coming hard off the bench and he did what he usually does.”
The Gophers scored their third goal of the night at 14:51 on a tic-tac-toe goal by junior captain Grant Potulny. Andy Sertich obtained the puck at the top of the right circle and fed Hirsch at the left of the crease. Hirsch found Potulny on the right side for a 3-0 Minnesota lead.
Chris Conner got Michigan Tech on the scoreboard at 19:15 of the second period while on the power play. Defenseman Justin Brown carried into the zone up the left, drawing two Minnesota skaters to him. Brown found Conner undefended at the left circle. Conner skated in, drawing Travis Weber across the crease. Brown moved the puck to his backhand to beat the committed Weber.
Outshot 14-4 in the second, the Huskies where hoping the late-period goal would fuel their comeback in the third.
Tech had numerous chances to close the gap early in the third, including three power plays. They outshot and outplayed the home favorite for most of the period, but failed to get another goal past Weber.
“It comes down to special teams, and theirs is better than ours,” Mike Sertich said.
“Both power-play units were good,” Minnesota coach Don Lucia said. “We got two goals and they got one.”
Although the power play proved decisive, midway through the second period, the home crowd actually cheered when one of its players went to the penalty box. At 10:23 of the second, Minnesota senior enforcer Matt DeMarchi drew a two-minute minor for hooking and the crowd applauded DeMarchi breaking the Gopher career record for penalty minutes with 454.
Minnesota will try to end Michigan Tech’s season in the rematch Saturday night at 7:05 p.m.