Minnesota shows effort but drops to Maine

Sarah Mitchell

ORONO, Maine — There’s no doubt about it, there was a different Minnesota men’s hockey team on the ice against Maine this weekend.
In the past, the Gophers were criticized for a lack of intensity when the team was losing. Although Minnesota (0-2) trailed for much of the weekend, there was still a positive feeling on the team about new coach Don Lucia.
“(He) brings a calmness to you, you believe good things are going to happen,” sophomore goaltender Adam Hauser said.
The Gophers dropped both games to Maine (2-0), falling 5-3 Saturday and 5-4 Sunday. While an 0-2 opening record looks similar to the trends of last season’s team, it took just 60 minutes Saturday to prove that Gophers had improved.
“There are obvious areas of concern, but these are our kids,” Lucia said. “As a coach, all we can do is expect our kids to give us that honest effort every night, and this weekend they did.”
Minnesota goaltender Pete Samargia was one of several newcomers getting his first tasted of action Sunday. And to his relief, Minnesota struck first and quick.
Taking advantage of a short-handed Maine team while freshman winger Tom Reimann was serving time in the penalty box for hooking, junior center Erik Westrum scored his third goal of the weekend at 5:06 in the first period, this time against Bears sophomore Mike Morrison. Westrum was assisted by junior defenseman Dylan Mills.
In goal, Samargia fended off an onslaught of Bears attempts. By the period’s end, the freshman goalie, flailing arms and all, withstood the test of nine Maine shots on goals.
“I do anything I can to get myself in front of that puck,” Samargia said. “A lot of goalies have the stand-up style. I try to be stand-up with what I like to call Bisco.”
In the second period, defensive lapses left Samargia more vulnerable in the net. Gophers sophomore center John Pohl put Minnesota in front 2-0 at 2:58, but Maine responded with three unanswered goals.
Bears center Chris Heisten ignited the run, capitalizing on a power play at 4:34 with assists credited to brother Barrett and senior forward Cory Larose. Freshman forward Martin Koriya chipped the next Maine goal into the upper right-hand corner of the net. Barrett followed suit in the Bears rally, scoring his second goal of the season at 13:32.
Westrum said that after this weekend, defensive lapses will no longer be acceptable.
“Mistakes are going to happen,” Westrum said. “(Lucia) is pretty forgiving for those now, but next weekend we’re going to go into the WCHA champions, they’re going to come to our rink and we’re going to have to take it to them, both defensively and offensively.”
Westrum continued to take it to Maine’s defenders late in the second period. The junior deked out Larose at the blue line and beat Morrison head-to-head to tie the game at three.
But the Bears came out gunning in the third period. Senior forward Ben Guite and junior forward Dan Kerluke each posted a goal within eight minutes of the face off.
Gophers defender Mills recorded Minnesota’s final goal at 14:29.
While it was not enough to put one in Minnesota’s win column, Bears coach Shawn Walsh was impressed by the rebuilding Gophers.
“They came out hard. They came out with pride,” Walsh said. “They deserved a better fate tonight.”
Walsh could have said the same for Saturday’s game.
Similar to Sunday’s game, Minnesota found the scoreboard first. Assisted by Pohl and freshman winger Shawn Roed, Westrum snuck one past Bears sophomore goalie Matt Yeats at 3:19. Westrum scored on Minnesota’s second attempt at goal of the season.
For the first half of the opening period, Minnesota outplayed the defending national champs. Swift puck movement and crisp passes helped the Gophers out shoot Maine 8-2 in the opening minutes.
The Bears awoke, however. Gophers sophomore goalie Adam Hauser gave up his first goal of the season about 13 minutes into the first period to Chris with assists credited to Barrett and freshman forward Tom Reimann.
In the second period, defensive lapses were Minnesota’s downfall. Once again, the Gophers struck first. Junior winger Aaron Miskovich was assisted by junior center Matt Leimbek to put Minnesota up by one. But in a style that was repeated Sunday, the Bears put up three unanswered goals — two within 29 seconds of each other — and the damage was done.
“I’m disappointed we didn’t go out and get a win,” Lucia said. “We’d love to win two hockey games, but I was hoping that our kids could win one this weekend and feel good about themselves. I think they still feel good about themselves.”
Minnesota begins WCHA action next weekend against regular-season champs North Dakota.
“What we come out of here knowing is what the tempo is like, what we need to do to get ourselves ready to play,” Samargia said. “I’m glad we got a chance to get out there. I think coach Lucia put up a good schedule for us. I think we’re all ready for this challenge.”

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