Gophers skate to a pair of 5-5 ties with Boston U

Aaron Blake

Keith Ballard did his part to bring Minnesota’s men’s hockey team back from a 4-2 deficit Saturday night at Mariucci Arena. But losing a 5-4 lead in the last half of the third period for the second straight night didn’t sit well.

Despite the late one-goal lead on both Friday and Saturday versus Boston University, the Gophers (9-8-3, 4-7-1 WCHA) could only salvage a pair of 5-5 ties with the Terriers (5-5-6).

“We’ve had a lot of opportunities to win games, and we’ve let them slip,” Ballard said. “You can talk about how we came back. But at the same time, we let it slip away again.”

A 5-on-3 advantage for Minnesota translated to Ballard’s fourth goal of the season and knotted Saturday’s game at four early in the third period.

Troy Riddle’s 12th goal of season put the Gophers up 5-4 just 18 seconds later.

But Boston seized the momentum almost immediately after returning to full strength.

Terrier Dan Spang’s wrist shot 10:04 into the third period found its way past goaltender Kellen Briggs. The freshman netminder hadn’t faced a shot on goal since replacing junior Justin Johnson in the opening seconds of the period.

“There were periods of play where they dominated, and there were periods of play where we dominated,” Gophers coach Don Lucia said. “Whenever it looked like somebody was going to pull away this weekend, the other team would rally back.”

Friday’s game mirrored Saturday’s in the end result. But the Gophers lost an early 3-1 advantage in addition to the 5-4 lead with less than five minutes remaining in the game.

Riddle and Jon Waibel paced Minnesota’s weekend with a pair of goals each, and six other Gophers added scores of their own.

Briggs earned the tie both nights, starting Friday and finishing Saturday. Johnson was pulled after giving up his fourth goal on only 16 shots 22 seconds into the third period.

Lucia was admittedly disappointed in the each goaltender’s performance.

“We need to play better than what we did tonight – that’s for sure,” Lucia said. “Coming back from Christmas break, goaltenders struggle more than any other position, because they’re not on the ice and their not facing shots.”

Minnesota will resume play on Friday and Saturday in Colorado Springs, Colo., against Colorado College.