Gophers solid in home sweep

Chris Lempesis

In the opinion of Minnesota’s men’s hockey coach Don Lucia, his team began to play hockey at about 4 p.m. Saturday.

That wouldn’t have been a problem, except for the fact that the game actually started just after 3 p.m.

But in the end, everything worked out for the Gophers.

Minnesota bounced back, turning in a solid final two periods en route to a 3-2 victory over Colorado College to complete the two-game Western Collegiate Hockey Association sweep. The Gophers clearly were the better team Friday, downing the Tigers by a 4-2 count.

“Last weekend (against North Dakota), we let one slip away on Saturday,” coach Don Lucia said. “And today we fought back and were able to get the victory.”

A victory ” even a solid effort ” seemed a distant possibility for fourth-ranked Minnesota (16-6-4, 11-5-2 WCHA) early on.

Lacking the proper intensity, the Gophers saw seventh-ranked Colorado College (17-10-1, 9-8-1 WCHA) control the first period and outshoot the Gophers 13-5. One of those shots, courtesy of forward Joey Crabb, found the back of the net and the visitors led 1-0.

Within the first five minutes or so of the second period, however, it was clear Minnesota’s offense was coming to life. Sophomore forward Kris Chucko made it official when he redirected a shot past Tigers goaltender Matt Zaba to even the score.

And while the Gophers’ offense charged back, registering 15 shots in the second, considerable luck late in the period was responsible for them taking the lead.

Senior defenseman Chris Harrington’s shot from just inside the blue line deflected off the stick of Colorado College defenseman Brandon Straub out front and went five-hole past Zaba with 0.9 seconds remaining.

“No, I saw that all the way; five-hole all the way,” Harrington said jokingly. “I have no idea how it even went in. I got hit, I think, right as I shot it. There was a (Colorado College) guy coming out to me. I was just trying to get the thing to the net. One out of a hundred times the thing goes in.”

The momentum appeared to be shifting back to the Tigers 7:21 into the third on a goal from reigning Hobey Baker Memorial Award winner Marty Sertich that tied it up at 2-2.

But freshman phenom Phil Kessel grabbed it right back for Minnesota. Kessel was in the perfect spot ” right out in front of the crease to Zaba’s glove side ” to snag a rebound and fire in the game-winner on the power play with 7:16 left.

“They were a little bit asleep early and we were pretty good,” Colorado College coach Scott Owens said. “But they still found a way.”

The Gophers didn’t have such troubles Friday night. Never trailing, Minnesota received two goals from senior forward Andy Sertich, including the game-winner at the 14:07 mark in the second.

The Gophers’ offense kept the play in the Tigers’ end for a large chunk of the contest, out-shooting them 36-19. The Colorado College shot total was its lowest of the season.

Though the wins might have been on the opposite end of the spectrum, Lucia seemed to be fairly comfortable with where his team is coming out of the weekend ” give or take an hour on Saturday.

“I think what’s happened (is) our team is settling into some roles,” Lucia said. “I think early in the year, everybody’s trying to figure out who’s going to be doing what and you’re moving guys in and out. And I think the guys are settling in.”