Marvin gets chance in net; Crowley, Kraft are honored

by Michael Rand

The Gophers hockey team’s Dec. 30 exhibition game against the Pori Aces of Finland wasn’t a likely candidate to whip a half-empty Mariucci Arena into a frenzy.
Fans probably assumed they would see a skating display and several nice goals — not much intrigue or emotion.
But two circumstances added a little spice to an otherwise meaningless two-and-a-half hours.
First, Gophers redshirt freshman Willy Marvin made his first career start in goal.
Although the game won’t appear on Minnesota’s final statistics this season, it was important for Marvin to see action. He has been the Gophers’ backup for starter Steve DeBus since Nov. 23, when regular No. 2 goalie Erik Day injured his shoulder.
Marvin turned away 34 shots in a 5-4 loss. After letting in the first shot he saw, the Warroad, Minn., native didn’t allow another goal until late in the second period. Although the Finnish snipers got to him in the third period, Marvin’s performance boosted his confidence.
“After I let that first goal in, I kind of settled in a bit. I wasn’t nervous anymore,” Marvin said. “I know all of you were probably kind of nervous, but I wasn’t.”
In addition to Marvin’s first start, the physical nature of the game created an unusual atmosphere for an exhibition.
It became apparent in the game’s opening minutes that the Finnish team’s hockey tour was not of the goodwill variety. It was appropriate that the Aces were wearing red because it looked like a game between Minnesota and Wisconsin.
The teams combined for 30 penalties, more than half of which were for roughing. The third period was particularly ugly, featuring a major skirmish and the ejection of Finnish player Vladimir Vujtek for his sucker-punch of the Gophers’ Mike Anderson.
Minnesota fans drowned the arena with boos as the referee wrestled Vujtek off the ice.
Most Gophers players, who had expected a relatively clean, easy-going game, simply shook their heads after the contest was over.
Gophers coach Doug Woog, in an understatement, described the game as “chippy.”
Trio returns from Switzerland
Sophomores Erik Rasmussen, Wyatt Smith and freshman Ben Clymer returned on Sunday from Switzerland, where they competed on the silver medal-winning U.S. Junior National Team.
The three members of the Gophers helped lead the U.S. team to its best finish ever in the tournament. Although Minnesota went 4-0 in the players’ absence, the team’s depth will be greatly bolstered by their return this weekend for a home series against Denver.
Crowley, Kraft honored
The WCHA honored two Gophers on Monday, naming junior Ryan Kraft the league’s offensive player of the week and junior Mike Crowley the defensive player of the week.
Kraft recorded his third career hat trick in Minnesota’s 6-2 win over Alaska-Anchorage on Saturday and also assisted on a goal on Friday in the team’s 4-1 win.
Crowley had a goal and four assists this weekend and played a key role in the Gophers penalty-killing unit, which held the Seawolves scoreless in 15 power play chances.
Well-deserved break
The Gophers had the day off from practice on Monday after flying home Sunday morning from Alaska. They will resume practice today in preparation for their Denver series this weekend.