3 points may not be enough

The Gophers weren’t the only team to help their cause in the WCHA this weekend.

by Brian Deutsch

The Minnesota men’s hockey team picked up three Western Collegiate Hockey Association points this weekend against Alaska Anchorage, but it may be too little too late for the Gophers.

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what: Men’s hockey
when: 7:07 p.m., Friday
where: Mariucci Arena

A 2-2 overtime tie on Friday night followed by a 4-1 win on Saturday allowed the Gophers to leapfrog Minnesota-Duluth and move up to eighth place in the conference.

However, every other team battling for home ice in the playoffs also managed to pick up at least two points in the standings this weekend – putting the Gophers in a tight spot.

“Whether we can catch home ice now, it’s a pretty tall order with the Mankato win (Saturday). That was costly for us,” Minnesota coach Don Lucia said. “But we can’t control that, we just want to continue to play well and get ready for (Duluth) next week.”

At this point, fourth-seeded Wisconsin can only be tied as the Badgers are four points up on Minnesota and idle in the final weekend of the regular season.

Minnesota State and St. Cloud State are tied for the fifth and final spot in the first division.

With 26 points each, the Gophers would need both teams to be swept next weekend if the team were to ascend over the competition.

“I told the guys, ‘Let’s win for today, let’s not worry about tomorrow,’ we have to have the game today to have any chance whatsoever,” Lucia said. “We were able to do that, but we can’t control what other people are going to do.”

Minnesota (14-13-9 overall, 8-11-7 WCHA) would play Wisconsin on the road if the regular season were to end right now.

Friday night, Minnesota received a pair of first period goals – one less than 30 seconds into the game – from senior defenseman Derek Peltier to take a 2-0 lead.

Peltier doubled his yearly totals for goals, adding his third and fourth of the season Friday night to constitute all of the Gophers’ offense for the night.

But after that, sophomore netminder John Olthuis shut the door to the crease while the Seawolves battled back to tie the game thanks to a pair of goals from the point given up by Gophers freshman goalie Alex Kangas.

“We backed off the blue line twice (Friday) and they put two long shots in,” Minnesota assistant coach Mike Guentzel said.

The Alaska-Anchorage goals given up Friday were unusual for Kangas, who played more like himself Saturday night when he stopped all but one of 27 shots on goal.

The lone shot that squeaked by was a tic-tac-toe play by the Seawolves that the freshman had virtually no chance at turning away.

And for the third time in four games, the Minnesota offense exploded for four goals – making the let-in trivial.

Senior forwards Evan Kaufmann and Mike Howe both scored their 30th career goals in the winning effort.

Barriball out again

Sophomore forward Jay Barriball left Friday’s game and sat out the series finale after re-injuring his left ankle – an injury that stemmed from the Denver series last month.

“We’ll see how he responds to treatment,” Lucia said. “What his status is for (next) weekend, we just don’t know right now.”

The last time Barriball sat out of a game – the Denver finale – Lucia told him to watch the game in hopes of the sophomore breaking out of his scoring slump.

In his next series on the ice, Barriball had one of his most successful two-game performances of the season.