Gophers lose to Alaska Anchorage 4-1

by Brian Deutsch

The Minnesota men’s hockey team was one period away from its second straight sweep over a Western Collegiate Hockey Association team tonight as the Gophers led Alaska Anchorage by one goal going into the final period.

But the broom was kept in the closet as the Seawolves scored three third period goals to come from behind and earn a split with a 4-2 win.

“I told our guys to remember how you did it,” Seawolves coach Dave Shyiak said. “If you can win in (Mariucci Arena), you can win in any building.”

The loss keeps Minnesota in the red in terms of its conference record (3-5-0) and gives the Seawolves their first WCHA win (1-3-2).

It’s also the first time this season that Minnesota has lost a game when scoring more than one goal.

Minnesota received goals from sophomore forwards Jay Barriball and Kyle Okposo, last year’s top-two contributors.

Although Barriball scored at the 10:58 mark of the first period to make it 1-0 and Okposo made it 2-1 with just under two minutes left in the second, the two goals had common characteristics.

Both came from cross-ice passes that found their targets wide open on the far side of the net, and freshman defenseman Cade Fairchild added an assist on each of the tallies.

Aside from Fairchild, freshman forward Mike Hoeffel assisted on Barriball’s goal and sophomore defenseman tallied an assist on Okposo’s score.

Okposo’s netter also ended a short-stretch of power-play struggles for Minnesota.

“Kyle played very well this weekend,” Minnesota coach Don Lucia said. “But some of the supporting cast, I thought their play really dropped off.”

The team had been held without a power-play goal all weekend until Seawolves freshman defenseman Luka Vidmar was called for checking from behind, which gave the Gophers a five-minute power-play and sent Vidmar to the locker room.

The Gophers ended the night going 1-for-7 on the advantage.

But even without Vidmar, Alaska Anchorage was able to come through in the third period to reclaim an above .500 record (4-3-3 overall) and silence the crowd of 10,109.

“It’s a pretty good feeling when 10,000 people aren’t talking,” Alaska Anchorage senior forward Peter Cartwright said.

The loss marks only the second time ever that the Seawolves have beaten the Gophers, but its becoming much more frequent.

The only other loss? Game two of last year’s WCHA first-round playoffs. However, Minnesota ended up winning the series and later advanced to the national tournament.