Gophers split series in Anchorage; remaining games become must-win

Minnesota is in danger of opening the postseason on the road.

by Max Sanders

Stuck for almost the entire season in the lower half of the conference standings, the Gophers menâÄôs hockey team spoke of the do-or-die mentality the team would need for the remainder of the regular season if they were to gain home-ice advantage for the first round of the playoffs. After yet another weekend split, Don LuciaâÄôs team is starting to run out of time to make its move. Facing Alaska-Anchorage (10-15-1 overall, 8-13-1 Western Collegiate Hockey Association) in Alaska seemed to be the perfect jumpstart LuciaâÄôs squad would need if they were to make a second-half surge to close out the season. Minnesota hadnâÄôt lost a game in Anchorage in nearly six years and was facing a Seawolves team that entered the weekend giving up 27 more goals than it has scored. Friday night, the Gophers looked well on their way to a much-needed sweep. A game which saw 11 goals scored almost never happened. A leak was discovered in one of the pipes at Sullivan Arena approximately seven hours before game time. Maintenance managed to fix the leak, but the goal pipes seemed to have just as many holes, as both goalies allowed scores every which way. MinnesotaâÄôs Mike Carman started the scoring five minutes into the first period on a power play, when he fired a shot that bounced off an Alaska-Anchorage defenseman, bounced in front of the net and hit off the skate of yet another Seawolves defenseman and into the net. Alaska-Anchorage stormed back, scoring two unanswered goals in the first period, the second goal coming just 43 seconds after the first to take an early 2-1 lead. On yet another power play, Minnesota rallied back for the equalizer with just 0.2 seconds remaining in the period. Jordan Schroeder took a pass from Zach Budish , skated the length of the ice and fired a shot that found the back of the net with just 0.2 seconds remaining to tie the game at 2. The Gophers took a lead they would not relinquish when 32 seconds into the second period David Fischer scored his first goal of the season. Schroeder added his second goal of the night on a shorthanded score eight minutes later, the first shorthanded goal of the sophomoreâÄôs collegiate career. Budish and Patrick White each added scores for Minnesota, WhiteâÄôs coming on power play, as the Gophers cruised to a 7-4 Friday night victory. Much like the rest of the season, the Gophers up-and-down play carried over in the series with the Seawolves, as the struggles on the offensive end reappeared Saturday night. Despite scoring a season-best seven goals just a night earlier, Minnesota couldnâÄôt find the net Saturday, falling to Alaska-Anchorage 2-1. Budish staked the Gophers to the early lead when he tipped a pass from Schroeder just under the crossbar and into the net for the goal 15 minutes into the first period. The goal, which was BudishâÄôs second of the weekend, combined with three assists gave the freshman a remarkable five points for the series. The lead would prove to be short lived, as the Seawolves scored 37 seconds into the second period on a power-play goal from Josh Lunden . Minnesota struggled all night on power play, failing to score on any of its four chances. Alaska-Anchorage added a shorthanded goal late in the second period, and after failing to score any goals in the third, Minnesota left the weekend with just two points. By splitting the series, the Gophers missed out on a chance to jump past North Dakota, who suffered a home sweep in Ralph Englestad Arena at the hands of Denver. With just four series remaining, Minnesota sits seven points behind Wisconsin and Colorado College, who are tied in fourth and currently have the final home-ice spots for the first round of the WCHA Tournament . Minnesota is off next weekend and will then travel to Denver to take on the Pioneers in a two-game series beginning Feb.12.