It may not have looked it on the Mariucci Arena ice, but there was a party going on — and Aaron Miskovich was the guest of honor.
The sophomore forward and 1997 Mr. Hockey scored two goals, one shorthanded, to propel Minnesota to a 3-1 victory Saturday over Minnesota-Duluth. The Gophers and Bulldogs played to a 2-2 tie in the WCHA opener Friday.
“I don’t know what happened,” Miskovich said. “Everything just seemed to open up. We made some nice plays with (Dave) Spehar and (Erik) Westrum — we just connected.”
Miskovich, plagued by injuries in his freshman campaign, has come of age this season with four goals in the last three games.
And his coach has noticed.
“He’d be giving me some fear if he was on the other team,” coach Doug Woog said. “The guys are starting to get more confident with him knowing that he’s on the go when they get the puck to him.”
The Gophers (2-1-1, 1-0-1) has been looking for consistent scoring from players other than resident point-machines Wyatt Smith and Reggie Berg. So far, Miskovich has provided the added punch Minnesota has been looking for.
The Gophers not only received a stand-out performance from Miskovich, they also relied on something that is a little new to the Minnesota game plan — physical play.
The hitting certainly caught the eye of Minnesota-Duluth coach Mike Sertich, who cited the Gophers physical play as one of the reasons his Bulldogs (0-1-1,0-1-1) could not get their game on track.
“They took some things away from us that they didn’t last night,” Sertich said. “They made some adjustments, particularly on the body, that kind of affected us. Then we got really in their rhythm.”
One of the players who made his presence felt was freshman and Duluth East alumnus Nick Angell.
“We wanted to come out and have a little more fire than we did (Friday),” Angell said. “We looked at the hit chart and there were a lot of guys with zero’s and one’s. So I think we wanted to play a little more physical style and take it to them.”
The aggressive play by the defense is paying dividends for the two most carefully scrutinized Gophers — goaltenders Willy Marvin and Adam Hauser.
Marvin stopped 31 of 33 shots en route to Friday night’s 2-2 draw. Hauser looked sharp and made some spectacular saves, letting in one goal in 17 shots.
The most telling save for Hauser came midway through the second period when Minnesota-Duluth forward Jeff Scissons charged in on a breakaway and looked to beat Hauser through the legs.
He didn’t score.
“This could be it,” Hauser recalled thinking when he saw Scissons streaking down the ice. “He’s great, and luckily our guys were getting sticks on him so he wasn’t able to break completely free.”
The freshman also gave credit to the Minnesota fans for getting behind him.
“Last week’s game, I really didn’t feel that the crowd was with me, and that’s understandable,” Hauser said. “This week they were responding to some of the things that I was doing. I’m very thankful for our fans.”
Hauser exhibited the poise and maturity he lacked in the Gophers’ 6-4 loss to St. Lawrence last weekend.
“I liked the overall play a lot better. Adam Hauser really didn’t have to make many saves until the third,” Woog said. “You throw in there that one big play when you need it, that would of made it 2-2.”
Sertich also noticed something different about Hauser.
“He’s sure got big pads,” Sertich said. “I’ll have to explore that, being chairman of the rules committee.”
On Saturday night, the Gophers gave the fans — and themselves — an entire game’s worth of effort that was sorely missed Friday.
“I think we just wanted to keep the same game plan,” Miskovich said. “But we wanted to come out and play hard for sixty minutes instead of forty.”
SATURDAYMinnesota-Duluth 1 0 0 — 1
Gophers 1 2 0 — 3
FIRST PERIOD: Minn. — Spehar 2 (Leopold 3, Berg 4), 6:16. UMD — Fibiger (Coole, Scissons), 13:18.
SECOND PERIOD: Minn. — Miskovich 3 (Anderson 2, Mills 1), 5:53. Minn. — Miskovich 4 (Anderson 3, Pagel 2), 12:47.
THIRD PERIOD: No scoring
FRIDAYMinnesota-Duluth 0 1 1 0 — 2
Gophers 1 1 0 0 — 2
FIRST PERIOD: Minn. — Smith 2 (Berg 3, Westrum 1), 17:06.
SECOND PERIOD: UMD — Scissons (Carlson), 3:35. Minn. — Smith 3 (Angell 1, N. Miller 2), 12:40.
THIRD PERIOD: UMD — Anderson (Scissons, Bois), 16:31.
OVERTIME: No scoring