Home sweep puts Gophers in win column

Minnesota beat Alaska-Anchorage by a combined 9-2 this weekend.

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sthk1102-bm

Max Sanders

Through two series against the conferenceâÄôs best, the Gophers menâÄôs hockey team looked overmatched and outplayed en route to a 0-3-1 start. Against Alaska-Anchorage, Minnesota played like the top-10 team they were tabbed to be before the season began, sweeping the Seawolves 5-1 and 4-1. âÄúIt was a bounce back weekend for us,âÄù head coach Don Lucia said. âÄúWe needed to win two games this weekend.âÄù The four-point weekend did not come easy. Friday nightâÄôs game started just like the Gophers previous four, with Alaska Anchorage taking the early 1-0 lead on a Nick Haddad power play goal that bounced off a deflected stick. âÄúThey get their first power play, it goes off our stick and goes in and itâÄôs kind of oh, boy. ThatâÄôs how itâÄôs gone so far this year, but I give our guys a lot of credit for being resilient after that, dictating the game,âÄù Lucia said. Minutes after the Seawolves goal Minnesota freshman Nick Leddy fired a shot from just inside the blue line that went wide of the net. After the shot, Leddy continued to skate across the ice where he was blindsided by Alaska-AnchorageâÄôs Jade Portwood , who landed an elbow to the face of Leddy. No penalty was called, but Leddy remained down on the ice and eventually was helped off by teammates. LeddyâÄôs absence sparked Minnesota, who responded with an Aaron Ness goal to tie the game at one. âÄúYou got to stand up for your teammates,âÄù senior Jay Barriball said. âÄúWe kind of got upset after that hit and really took it to them for a couple of periods.âÄù The goal snapped the Gophers scoreless streak, which had gone up to 140 minutes and 33 seconds. Take it to them they did, scoring three second-period goals, including a short-handed goal by Tony Lucia, a goal by Kevin Wehrs and a delayed penalty goal by Zach Budish . For Budish and Wehrs, the goals were their first at the collegiate level. With the game well within control, Tony Lucia added a second short-handed goal late in the third to put the game out of reach at 5-1. The two short-handed goals were the first by a Gophers player since Mike Carman scored two against Michigan in November of 2006. The extra day of rest âÄî they played Sunday to not conflict with the evening football game âÄî allowed junior Alex Kangas to get back-to-back starts, also a reward for his solid performance in FridayâÄôs game. âÄúI told him if you win on Friday you can come back and play on Sunday, so I wanted to give him a little carrot,âÄù Lucia said. âÄúHe knew that going in, and he responded the way he played this weekend.âÄù Kangas was named the first star of the game Sunday, stopping 31 saves in a 4-1 Minnesota win. âÄúIt felt good. We played well for the most part all weekend,âÄù Kangas said. âÄúGuys made it fairly easy on me; just had to make the first save, and if I left any rebounds they cleared most of them away.âÄù While Friday saw the end of the Gophers scoreless streak, Sunday had another scoring drought snapped as well. Heading into the game 0-25 on the power play, junior Patrick WhiteâÄôs put-back of a Tony Lucia shot gave Minnesota its first power play goal of the season. âÄúWe finally got the power play goal,âÄù Lucia said. âÄúWeâÄôll have to continue to work at it, because I think we have the personnel to certainly do better than what weâÄôve done.âÄù With 17 seconds remaining in the first period junior Mike Hoeffel scored during an odd man rush, giving the Gophers a comfortable lead, one they would not relinquish. Hoeffel sees the sweep, and the four points that come with it as a major step in the right direction for the Minnesota program. âÄúDefinitely felt good to get around that circle and get a sweep this weekend,âÄù Hoeffel said. âÄúIt was four crucial points we desperately needed to get, so it felt good to get a sweep this weekend.âÄù While the Gophers did earn four-points, it came with a price. Before SundayâÄôs victory it was announced that Leddy had suffered a broken jaw from the hit sustained in FridayâÄôs game, and is expected to miss up to six weeks. âÄúItâÄôs a big hit for us because of the subtle things he can do âÄî even getting to a puck,âÄù Lucia said. âÄúWe had nice groupings together with him and [Fischer].âÄù While stopping short of calling the hit dirty, Lucia did talk with the referee about the hit. âÄúI think those things have to be looked at; thatâÄôs a dangerous play,âÄù Lucia said. âÄúEven though youâÄôre in a vulnerable position that doesnâÄôt mean you can make that hit like that, thatâÄôs just my opinion; thatâÄôs why the ruleâÄôs in there.âÄù Following the four-point weekend, the Gophers are now tied for third in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association standings, and head to Madison for a two-game series with the Badgers beginning Friday.