Minnesota sweeps season-opening games in Alaska

The Gophers offense was high-powered in the team’s first weekend as 13 different players tallied points Sunday.

Minnesota forward Justin Kloos races to the puck in the first period against Michigan State University at Mariucci Arena on Feb. 26.

Daily File Photo

Minnesota forward Justin Kloos races to the puck in the first period against Michigan State University at Mariucci Arena on Feb. 26.

by Drew Cove

Minnesota emerged from its first weekend of non-conference play with two wins and is off to a fast start.

The Gophers beat the Seawolves of Alaska-Anchorage 6-0 Friday night and came back Sunday to beat the Nanooks of Alaska-Fairbanks 6-3.

The Gophers managed to score 12 goals over the course of two games, and sophomore goaltender Eric Schierhorn, an Anchorage native, allowed only three goals, which all came in Sunday’s series finale.

“That was probably the easiest shutout that I’ve ever had in my life,” Schierhorn told the media Friday night. “We were up here to get two wins.”

Schierhorn recorded 14 saves in his shutout Friday and stopped 17 of the 20 shots he faced on Sunday night, a good start for the lone goalie on the Big Ten Preseason Players to Watch list.

Schierhorn’s work in the net was further highlighted over the weekend by the offense in front of him.

Three Minnesota players had two goals in a game in the Alaska road trip. Both sophomore forward Brent Gates Jr. and senior defenseman and alternate captain Jake Bischoff had two goals in Friday’s win over the Alaska-Anchorage Seawolves. Sunday’s game against Alaska-Fairbanks brought sophomore forward Tyler Sheehy’s pair.

Although the No. 13 Gophers came away with two victories in Alaska, they spent a lot of time in the penalty box. Minnesota took five penalties in the first game of the weekend, and six in the second. Luckily, the Gophers defense corps was able to protect their leads against the opposition’s power play.

“The penalty kill was important early,” head coach Don Lucia told reporters Friday. “We had the first four [penalties] against us.”

The penalty kill was just as Sunday and only allowed one goal over the six chances Minnesota allowed, and the Gophers also scored two shorthanded goals, one coming in the first goal of the season for senior forward and captain Justin Kloos.

“I was able to sneak one down the left post,” Kloos said to the media Sunday. “I was trying to go over the left-pad, but it did dribble [into the net].”

Minnesota’s freshmen proved what they can bring to the team’s scoring power quickly in the first games of the season.

Freshman defenseman Ryan Zuhlsdorf scored two goals over the course of the weekend, one being Minnesota’s first of the season, while forward Rem Pitlick found the back of the net in Friday’s game for his collegiate first.

Minnesota had a huge spread in production in its first weekend. Eleven different players tallied points in Friday’s contest and 13 got on Sunday’s scoresheet.

The weekend was a homecoming for Coach Lucia as well, who coached at both Alaska Fairbanks and Alaska Anchorage as an assistant and at Fairbanks as head coach.

The team plays an exhibition game this week before heading back into non-conference play, but the Gophers have plenty to draw from with the 2-0 road sweep.

“The goal was to win two games,” coach Lucia told reporters. “We would have been disappointed to not win two.”