Gophers offense destroys Braves

by David La

The excitement, the pure audacity of Paul Martin’s goal from the blueline just seven seconds into Saturday’s game moved Minnesota to change its usual celebration of such events.
Instead of skating by the bench to tap gloves with teammates, the Gophers’ scoring unit met at the bench for a maroon and gold group hug.
On Tuesday, these same players held a meeting to abolish a four game losing streak in which they scored a measly four goals.
Martin scored early, his teammates scored often, and Minnesota revived itself, beating Quinnipiac 11-2 at Mariucci Arena.
“It was important for our team’s psyche to have a game like this,” Gophers coach Don Lucia said. “We were comfortably ahead but we played the whole game. We played from start to finish.”
With a 17-2 shot advantage and four goals, Minnesota (10-5-2) dominated the third period. But it was Martin’s blast from the blueline which got a recently stagnant offense rolling, and set the tome for the evening.
“I threw it on the net instead of dumping it in the corner and it went in,” Martin said.
Though 11 minutes would pass before junior Johnny Pohl made the score 2-0 on a rebound goal, Quinnipiac never fully recovered.
“I don’t think they played as well as they could’ve played,” Lucia said. “I’ve been in that situation as a coach and you go in thinking, `If we play well for the first 10 minutes we’ll be fine.”
While the Braves (10-4-2) struggled mightily, the Gophers poured it on in the opening period. Freshman Grant Potulny bagged a power-play goal — Minnesota’s first in 19 attempts — and senior Stuart Senden scored the first goal in what would be a memorable night.
Senden scored again midway through the second period, then played as visions of his first-ever hat trick danced in his head.
“Actually I did (think about it),” Senden said. “I duffed a rebound shot in the second period and I though, ‘That was it, that was my chance.’ My linemates told me, ‘Relax, it’ll come. We’ll help you out.'”
Midway through the third period, Senden stuffed a rebound home for the first hat trick of his career — a moment celebrated with a cascade of a dozen hats from the stands to the ice.
“This was a big game for us,” Senden said. “You never know, we could run into (Quinnipiac) down the line. If we take care of our business, maybe we will run into them later (in the NCAA tournament).”
A brutal, disciplinary practice Monday, followed by Tuesday’s player-only meeting, inspired Minnesota’s performance.
“We had a new outlook after this weeks’ practices and meetings,” assistant captain Dylan Mills said. “We wanted to go into Christmas break with a good feeling and I think that’s what we did.”
Gophers win Exhibition
Minnesota endured a see-saw battle with the Russian Regional Select Team on Sunday night at Mariucci Arena.
The Gophers Erik Westrum scored the game-winning-goal on the power play late in the third period to give Minnesota the 5-4 exhibition win.
But it was junior Johnny Pohl who was the star offensively for the Gophers with a hat trick on the evening.
The win was the first for Minnesota since the foreign exhibition games began in 1995. The Gophers are now 1-4 all time in such games.
Goaltender Pete Samargia went the distance to earn the win between the pipes.
The Russian team, will face three other WCHA teams — the St. Cloud State Huskies, the Wisconsin Badgers and the Minnesota state Mavericks — on its current tour.

Minnesota sophomore goaltender Erik Young saw his first action of the season against Quinnipiac on Saturday, entering the game at the 13:34 mark of the third period. Young stopped both shots he faced.

David La Vaque covers men’s hockey and welcomes comments at [email protected]