Gophers find long-lost power play

Minnesota went 4-for-6 with the man advantage in Saturday’s 7-2 win.

Ben Goessling

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – For all of the talk about an attitude change between Minnesota’s men’s hockey team’s 3-1 loss to Colorado College on Friday night and its 7-2 drubbing of the Tigers on Saturday, the turnaround, empirically, was in the power play.

After going 0-for-5 on power plays Friday night, Minnesota scored four goals in six power-play chances Saturday, keying a big win and a split.

“I think the guys moved the puck around nicer. We tried to get a little bit more traffic,” coach Don Lucia said Saturday. “We were just sharper tonight.”

Minnesota made a small strategic switch before the second game, telling forward Danny Irmen to camp out in front of the net unless he heard otherwise.

And the move yielded big results early.

On the Gophers’ first attempt Saturday, Tyler Hirsch moved the puck from the left circle to Alex Goligoski in the high slot, and the defenseman found Irmen just in front of the Tigers’ net. Irmen scored past diving Tigers goaltender Curtis McElhinney, tying the game at one and reversing Minnesota’s fortunes for good.

“Once we scored that power-play goal, we improved as a team,” Lucia said. “I don’t know if we were still a little down after (Friday) night or not, but that seemed to ignite us a little bit.”

Minnesota’s second power-play did not yield a goal, but the Gophers came back on their third attempt when Ryan Potulny found Irmen with a pinpoint pass from behind the net. Irmen batted the puck to the top shelf for his third goal of the series and a 2-1 Minnesota lead.

“Ryan made a beautiful pass,” Irmen said, before asking for a reminder of how the first goal played out. “I guess it was two beautiful passes.”

Forgive the sophomore for not remembering all seven goals. At times, the Gophers crashed the net so hard – both with the man advantage and at even strength – their score seemed to change in twos.

After taking the lead, the Gophers remarkably went back on the power play just seven seconds later, and 25 seconds after Irmen’s goal, Kris Chucko converted a rebound right in front of McElhinney for a 3-1 lead.

Minnesota added its seventh and final goal of the night on its sixth power-play attempt when Jerrid Reinholz slipped behind McElhinney, snagged an Evan Kaufmann rebound just behind the left post and tucked the puck behind the goalie.

The Gophers’ rush-the-gates mentality on the power play seemed to embody their spirit all night, and, in a way, it was fitting. Minnesota pulled even for the weekend after getting its plus-one unit back to par.

“Last night, I don’t think the effort was there,” forward Garrett Smaagaard said. “Everybody in the lineup gave everything they could, and, to come out with two points, we’re pretty happy.”