Minnesota sweeps Colorado College

C.J. Spang

On one night, it looked as though Minnesota’s men’s hockey team might never score, and on the other night, it looked as though the Gophers might never stop scoring.

But it didn’t really matter what the offense was doing, considering the defense had the Colorado College offense on lockdown in Minnesota’s 2-1 win Friday, and Saturday’s 8-1 thrashing of the Tigers.

Coach Don Lucia said the Gophers caught Western Collegiate Hockey Association foe Colorado College at a good time, because the Tigers were missing two of their top scorers.

“The one thing in our league, sometimes it’s not only who you play but when you play,” Lucia said. “We caught (Colorado College) at a good time. They were vulnerable this weekend.”

Friday’s game was all about the goaltending, and the Gophers senior netminder Kellen Briggs won the battle over the Tigers’ Matt Zaba, making 20 saves to pick up his 12th career shutout in the 2-0 victory.

Colorado College certainly had the momentum – and the opportunities – in the first period as Minnesota had one goal disallowed, then was hit with a five-minute major penalty toward the end of the period.

On the man advantage, the WCHA’s leading goal scorer, junior forward Scott McCullouch got behind the defense and broke in all alone, but Briggs made a nice poke-check and McCullouch was only able to get off a weak shot that was stopped by the off-balance Briggs.

It was a brutal five-minute span for Colorado College as the Tigers managed just two shots, while the Gophers had three short-handed attempts.

“That was an important part of the game,” Lucia said. “I was worried that if they could get the lead on that five-minute major, one or two, the way Zaba was playing it would have been very difficult for us (to come back).”

The Gophers finally broke through after Colorado

College sophomore defenseman Jake Gannon was called for his second penalty in two-and-half minutes.

Minnesota bombarded Zaba with shots and with nine seconds left on the power, senior defenseman Mike Vannelli let go of a shot from the top of the near circle that beat Zaba top shelf.

The Gophers added an insurance goal with just under nine minutes to play when Barriball, like so many times this season, found himself in front of the net and put a cross-ice pass from sophomore Blake Wheeler into the back of the net for his team-leading sixth goal of the season.

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Minnesota Duluth
WHEN: 7:07 p.m. Friday
WHERE: Duluth
TV: FSN

“I didn’t expect this, I’ll tell you that,” Barriball said of his offensive output this season. “Pucks just started going in and I hope I can keep it up all season.”

While Minnesota’s defense dominated the Tigers again on Saturday, it was the Gophers’ offense that stole the show.

Minnesota had two short-handed markers and freshman forward Kyle Okposo recorded a hat trick in the lopsided 8-1 win.

“It feels great,” Okposo said of his hat trick. “I’ve been dreaming about it since I was a little kid.”

But Okposo wasn’t the only one getting in on the scoring action as 10 different players recorded a point for the Gophers.

Junior defenseman Alex Goligoski and senior forward Tyler Hirsch each had three assists and Barriball extended his point streak to seven straight games with a pair of assists.

The telling sign of Minnesota’s dominance came when sophomore forward Ryan Stoa scored Minnesota’s eighth goal of the night. It was at that point that the Gophers had more goals than Colorado College had shots (seven).

“They just keep coming in waves with their depth,” Owens said. “They just took it to us – all night long.”