Minnesota had a lot to prove coming into Fridays’ contest against St. Cloud.
Luckily for Minnesota Head Coach Don Lucia, all elements were clicking for the Gophers, leading to a 3-2 win at the National Hockey Center in St. Cloud.
“I was happy with everything tonight,” Lucia said. “I thought we came out with really good energy, and our special teams performed.”
Saying Minnesota’s special teams excelled may be an understatement after evaluating how in-check SCSU’s power play was kept. After finishing the 2007-2008 campaign as a dominant force on special teams, the Huskies went 0-11 on the advantage. Even St. Cloud’s penalty kill faltered, allowing a goal on six Gopher chances.
The lone goal Minnesota scored on the power play would start the scoring for the contest 8:58 into the first period. Junior forward Tony Lucia would give the Gophers an early lead, beating SCSU netminder Jase Weslosky top shelf glove side.
“We really put an emphasis on power play this year with the change in rules and penalties,” Tony said. “You got to have a good penalty, you got to be ready to go . . . give credit to the rest of our guys on the power play, they were really good.”
The Huskies would bounce back at the 11:50 mark of the first, when Husky senior and St. Cloud native John Swanson continued his scoring onslaught. While falling to the ice along the left wing, Swanson blasted a wrister, beating Gopher goalie Alex Kangas glove side.
After the first period, the Huskies were tied on the scoreboard at one but were being outshot by the Gophers, 18-5.
The second period proved for more of the same for Minnesota on the offensive attack. The special teams play would continue for the Gophers halfway through the second, this time netting a shorthanded goal.
After missing all but four periods of 2007-2008, Ryan Stoa netted his first goal of the new year, the lone goal by either team in the second.
The Gophers would add their third goal, the eventual game winner at the 11:36 mark of the third period. Stoa added his second point of the game, after feeding freshman forward Jordan Schroeder who found Apple Valley native Mike Carmen for the goal.
“Our guys came out and did the things we asked of them to do,” Don Lucia said. “I thought we played at a good tempo and a good speed and really generated a lot of scoring chances. It was nice to see us score that third goal in the third period, it was something that we couldn’t do last year, we could never stretch that lead.”
The Huskies would battle back when junior Captain Garrett Raboin would inch SCSU to within one with just over two and a half minutes remaining in the contest.
Momentum even seemed to change into St. Cloud’s favor, when just under two minutes left in the game the Huskies went on their 11th power play of the game. But much to the chagrin of SCSU fans, the Husky power play was unable to get one past Kangas, finishing the evening 0-11 on the advantage.
Kangas stopped 22 of 24 shots faced in the win for the Gophers, who are now 1-0 on the young season. In the loss for St. Cloud, Weslosky turned away 32 of 35 shots faced.
The interstate battle now heads south for a Saturday evening match up from Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis. With the loss, the Huskies drop to 2-1 on the year.