Hockey stays perfect with sweep of Bulldogs

by David La

The scene from Saturday replayed on a continuous loop: The beaten goaltender on one knee with his head down, the red goal light blazing behind him and teammates offering all the sanctuary possible from taps of their sticks on the leg pads of their shell-shocked stopper.
For Minnesota, who opened its WCHA season this weekend with a two-game sweep in front of two sell-out crowds, such scenes find their way to a highlight reel.
After taking the Gophers to the brink in a close 3-1 loss Friday, Minnesota-Duluth got ripped in a 9-2 loss Saturday. The game tape is likely earmarked for the horror section of the team’s video library.
“We got beat by a hell of a team,” first-year Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin said Saturday. “They beat us in every aspect of the game. And when a good team gets on a roll, they feed off that.”
Nine different Minnesota skaters contributed a goal each Saturday, showcasing the potent depth of the line chart.
Minnesota used its manpower, employing an aggressive forecheck which led to 43 shots and a half dozen goals around the net.
The first two lines notched six points, the second two lines had nine points and the defense added six points.
“That’s what we need,” junior Johnny Pohl said. “We can’t rely on one line, we can’t rely on one guy, we can’t rely on one power-play unit.”
Pohl’s goal — his first of the season — served to break Minnesota-Duluth’s back. The Bulldogs surrendered a power-play goal to make the score 4-0 in the second period, then took another penalty. Sandelin, who preached the need for disciplined play, called a timeout to regroup his troops.
“It was more or less just to settle guys down and keep their heads on,” Sandelin said. “We didn’t want it to go from bad to worse.”
The peptalk went for naught. Less than two minutes later, Pohl took a pass from Matt Koalska, then swept a shot past Anderson’s outstretched left leg for a 5-0 Gophers lead — essentially ending the game in the second stanza.
In Friday’s 3-1 win, Minnesota rode out a solid defensive effort by Minnesota-Duluth, taking a 1-1 tie into period three, then clinching with 46 seconds to go.
“Welcome to the WCHA,” Minnesota coach Don Lucia said Friday. “It was actually the kind of game I expected it to be. You get back into league play and you’ve got to win with three or four goals.”
The Gophers popped two power-play goals, and goalie Adam Hauser turned away 12 of 13 shots in the win.
Lucia said the Gophers let opportunities come to them and didn’t press for scores in even-strength situations. The defensive philosophy showed in the 13 shots allowed.
Minnesota captain Erik Westrum dominated play, scoring a goal on a man advantage in the first period, then adding a shorthanded, empty net tally to seal the win.
“You can talk about the young guys all you want,” Lucia said. “But this league is for older guys.”
A questionable goaltender interference call on wing Nick Anthony, coupled with Sandelin’s decision to pull goaltender Adam Coole gave the Bulldogs a 6 to 4 man advantage.
Undaunted, Westrum pursued the play, overplaying the puckhandlers right side and intercepting his pass. Westrum was left with a one man breakaway.
“I was thinking about shooting,” Westrum said. “But I still had some energy in my legs, so I figured why not take it in and get a sure goal.”
The contrasting weekend wins exhibited the team’s poise and taste for blood. From winning a gritty game Friday with two third period goals, to the contagious scoring outbreak Saturday, the Gophers secured two wins while harnessing a good deal of early-season momentum.
“In the past I’ve been on teams that folded or didn’t play as well in the third period,” Westrum said. “We’re going to keep coming at them, and if we keep getting scoring chances, that’s our biggest advantage.”

David La Vaque covers men’s hockey and welcomes comments at [email protected]