MINNEAPOLIS — Brent Gates netted his first career hat trick, propelling No. 11 Minnesota to 5-1 win over Mercyhurst and into the championship game of the Mariucci Class Saturday versus Massachusetts.
Gates’ third goal was a gritty unassisted goal that had to be reviewed. Gates stole the puck between the circles and drove to the net, losing his balance. He never got a clean shot off, but his leg hit the puck as he was falling. The puck went into the net just before Gates and a defenseman crashed into the goaltender.
“I saw the puck behind the ‘D’ and tried to crash the net and it went off my leg,’ said Gates. “It was one of those I feel like if you try to work hard and do the right thing those bounces happen time to time. I didn’t know if it was going to stand.”
The game was penalty-marred, which worked to Minnesota’s advantage.
The Gophers netted two power play goals by Gates on four chances while Mercyhurst did not score with the extra attacker on three chances, one of which carried into the second.
Gates’ first goal opened scoring at 10:52 of the first on a redirection of a shot from Leon Bristedt from the left side wall. The second at 13:25 gave Minnesota a 2-0 lead and came nine seconds into a power play on a feed also from Bristedt. Gates caught the puck to the left of the net, skated laterally, and beat Brandon Wildung on a backhander on the far side from in close.
Derek Barach responded for Mercyhurst at 16:24 of the first on a partial breakaway. He picked up a pass from Jordan Charbon 15 feet inside the blue line at the left sidewall with a head of steam. He got around the defender and beat Eric Schierhorn low on the far side.
Bristedt made it 3-1 Minnesota at 16:30 of the second, sniping a shot into the upper left corner from in close. Mike Szmatula brought the puck into the zone on the left side and pinballed it off a defenseman right to an open Bristedt 20 feet in front of the net.
“It was a good play coming in the zone; I think Szmatula got it to Leon coming in late and that’s Leon,” said Minnesota coach Don Lucia. “It was a nice far down goal, a really nice shot on his part.”
“I picked it up in the middle and didn’t think too much and just tried to put it high,” said Bristedt.
Justin Kloos closed out the scoring, netting an empty-net short-handed goal at 16:49 of the third.
Massachusetts 2, Alabama-Huntsville 1 (OT)
Freshman Griff Jeszka scored the game-winner at 2:10 of OT, propelling UMass to a 2-1 victory over Alabama-Huntsvile while ending the Minutemen’s five-game losing streak.
The Wisconsin native found himself wide open in front of an empty net on a feed from the left side wall by William Lagesson. The play was no slam dunk despite seeing all the net for the win in front of his family and friends. There was a lot going through the young freshman’s mind.
“Don’t miss that’s for sure; that’s why I had to catch it on my backhand and do an extra stick handle to make sure I put it on net,” said Jeszka. “I was fortunate to be in the right spot at the right time. Willy gave a phenomenal pass. It was all them getting the play started. I just had to finish it.”
The Minutemen scored first at 15:28 of the opening stanza on a faceoff goal by Jake Horton. Steven Iacobellis won the draw to Kurt Keats, who sent the puck back to Horton on the right corner, who fired a wrist shot into the far side of the net blocker high.
Max McHugh knotted the game at one at 3:35 of the second period. The Chargers’ goal came with an extra attacker while on a delayed penalty. Josh Kestner’s shot hit a UMass player and fluttered toward the net. McHugh snagged the puck out of the air, bouncing it off the ice through Ryan Wischow five-hole.