Gophers advance to Final Five with 3-0 win

Riding another strong performance by its top line and a shutout by its playoff-tested goaltender, the Minnesota menâÄôs hockey team defeated St. Cloud State 3-0 Saturday night to sweep the Huskies and advance to the Western Collegiate Hockey Association Final Five next weekend. In a weekend that pitted the top two lines in the conference head-to-head, MinnesotaâÄôs first line of Ryan Stoa and Jay Barriball around Jordan Schroeder came out well ahead. Stoa scored in the first, assisted on BarriballâÄôs second period power-play goal and then threw in his second empty netter in as many nights to lead the way. Barriball helped set up StoaâÄôs first while Schroeder slipped a pass through the crease to set up BarriballâÄôs tally and then was credited with an assist on the empty-net goal after the game. âÄúThey made the plays when they were there,âÄù St. Cloud State coach Bob Motzko said. âÄúTheyâÄôve got a lot of skill,âÄù goalie Alex Kangas said. âÄúTheyâÄôre the total package.âÄù Meanwhile, Kangas and the Gophers defense held the Huskies scoreless in five out of six periods over the weekend. St. Cloud StateâÄôs top line of Jordy Christian, Garrett Roe and Ryan Lasch kept the Huskies in FridayâÄôs game with a pair of third-period goals. âÄúWe have to have a guy make a play. We had one guy score on the weekend,âÄù Motzko said referring to Garrett RoeâÄôs two-goal performance in FridayâÄôs 4-2 loss. On Saturday, the chances were there for the Huskies. Travis Novak missed a open net during a second-period power play, and Kangas swiped a backhander by Christian with his glove in the third. âÄúWe could have made it a series, we just couldnâÄôt put one through,âÄù Motzko said. Minnesota will likely face Minnesota-Duluth, who swept Colorado College on the road, in Thursday nightâÄôs play-in game barring any further upsets. The Kangas of old On the back of KangasâÄô helmet, youâÄôll find a four-letter Finnish word that the sophomore goaltender looked at on occasion over the last half of this season when his play dipped and his streak of 51-straight starts came to an end. Sisu in Finnish, or when Kangas roughly translates it to English fortitude or âÄúto have guts.âÄù âÄúI thought itâÄôd be kind of neat to put it on the back of my helmet as a remembrance,âÄù Kangas said. âÄúWhenever things are going bad, just look at that and itâÄôll boost you up a little bit.âÄù It must be working âÄì the sophomore posted his third career shutout Saturday night and his second in three games. Any troubles earlier this year aside, Gophers coach Don Lucia remains adamant that the team will live and die with Alex Kangas this postseason. âÄúHeâÄôs made a career out of playing big this time of the season,âÄù Lucia said. Kangas looked shaky in the first period when he kicked several rebounds out in front of the crease. but the sophomore settled as the game progressed When the Huskies went on a 6-on-4 advantage with 1:20 left in the game, Kangas looked the netminder that carried his team through the playoffs as a freshman last season. But the Rochester nativeâÄôs 34 save performance didnâÄôt impress Motzko. âÄúI donâÄôt know how many real good saves he had to make. He bobbled everyone that went in there,âÄù Motzko said. âÄúWe had nobody in front. They did a great job of defending himâÄù Kangas agreed with the oppositionâÄôs opinion but didnâÄôt let it take away from the teamâÄôs success. âÄúDon says just make the first save and the defense should clear the rest,âÄù Kangas said. âÄúThey did that well tonight. It was a team shutout.âÄù Third sweep of the season For the third time this season, Minnesota swept the Huskies âÄì this time undoubtedly knocking St. Cloud State out of contention for the national tournament. At 22nd in the PairWise Rankings, the Huskies, who are the only team Minnesota has swept this year, are well out of range for NCAA selection. St. Cloud state team was seven games over .500 against teams other than Minnesota but couldnâÄôt find a way around the team that has now won six straight against them this year. âÄúWe made their season. LetâÄôs face it. Six winsâĦthatâÄôs the only reason they got home ice. ThatâÄôs the only reason theyâÄôre probably in the NCAA tournament right now is us,âÄù Motzko said. âÄúThey destroyed our regular season, and they destroyed our playoffs.âÄù