Gophers hockey finally get a win

by Sarah Mitchell

From behind a closed locker-room door, it was obvious the Gophers men’s hockey team had a postgame bash on Friday. Booming music shook the tunnel outside of Mariucci Arena’s home locker room for the first time all season and possibly in years.
Minnesota had reason to party — it was celebrating its first win under coach Don Lucia and a dramatic 6-5 overtime defeat of top-ranked Boston College.
“I’m happy for our kids more than anything else,” Lucia said. “When the kids work hard like that you want to see them rewarded and they were rewarded (Friday).”
Gophers senior winger Nate Miller was Minnesota’s saving grace after a second period, four-goal lead wasn’t cushion enough for his team. Tied at five in OT, the co-captain’s trickler sealed the upset.
In what Lucia called a textbook play, Miller checked Eagles freshman Krys Kolanos along the boards to free up the puck. Firing from the right circle at Eagles goaltender Scott Clemmensen, Miller’s shot hit Clemmensen’s pads and skidded over the goal line.
“To tell you the truth I was pretty tired. I was like, ‘Well, I might as well go over there and take a hit on (Kolanos),'” Miller said. “Then I hit him and I was like, ‘Geez, now I’ve got to do something with the puck.’ So I grabbed it and fired at the net and it snuck through the pads. It was a good feeling.”
It was Miller’s first goal of the season. Several other Gophers also debuted on Friday to overcome an Eagles offense that entered the series outscoring their opponents 16 goals to five and averaging nearly six goals a game through three contests.
Gophers freshman centers Jeff Taffe and Nick Anthony contributed to Minnesota’s scoring-by-committee effort. Both scored career-first goals in the first period to stretch Minnesota’s lead to three.
After the weekend, Taffe leads Minnesota’s freshmen in scoring with four points from one goal and three assists. Anthony’s goal was his first point as a Gopher. The freshman was also credited with an assist on junior winger Stuart Senden’s goal halfway through the third period.
Senden’s goal gave Minnesota a 5-3 lead and was also the veteran’s first of the season. Lucia said Miller, Taffe, Anthony and Senden all gained confidence Friday.
“That’s nice to see,” Lucia said. “Once a guy scores a goal, I think they relax a little more.”
The rest of the team felt relief, too, shaking themselves of a winless title.
“I’m happy for the kids, to be honest,” Lucia said. “I think they feel good about themselves.”

Sarah Mitchell covers men’s hockey and welcomes comments at [email protected]