The 9,862 fans in Mariucci Arena got a late Christmas present tonight ñ a 4-2 “win” over Air Force in the first ever shoot-out in Gophers’ history.
Technically, the game will go down as a 2-2 tie, but nevertheless fans were treated to a rarity in college hockey.
Senior forward Evan Kaufmann and sophomore forward Jay Barriball both tallied goals in the shootout to clinch for Minnesota.
Kaufmann led off the contest for the Gophers, his shot trickled in off of Falcons’ net-minder Andrew Volkening. Barriball put his attempt underneath the sophomore goalkeeper.
Meanwhile freshman Alex Kangas was perfect in the shoot-out ñ stopping all four attempts he faced while the fifth was nullified by the score.
“I didn’t have very much success with (shoot-outs) in Juniors, so I was a little bit nervous about it,” Kangas said. “But we got that first goal right away, and that kind of calmed my nerves.”
Theoretically, the “win” moves Minnesota to 2-0 all-time against Air Force with the first contest coming in last year’s 4-3 comeback at the NCAA Regionals.
And tonight was another thrilling comeback for the Gophers.
The Falcons struck first when junior forward Brent Olson hacked home a rebound for his first of two goals in the game.
The Baudette, Minn. also picked up the game-tying goal when he snuck a shot by Kangas with 1:02 left in regulation after coach Frank Serratore pulled the goalie in favor of the attacker.
“He’s got that Northern Minnesota toughness,” Serratore said of Olson. “He’s a rink ratÖhe is, by a country mile, our most improved player and arguably maybe our MVP to this point.”
The Gophers matched Air Force with goals by senior forwards Ben Gordon and Tom Pohl.
Gordon rifled a slapshot past Volkening in the second period, and Pohl scored his first goal of the season when he put a shot net that surprised everyone including Pohl himself.
“There was a lot of trafficÖI just shot. I couldn’t see it.” Pohl said. “I heard a little bit of a roar and realized that I scored.”
Minnesota 0-1-2-0-2-4 Air Force 1-0-2-0-0-2 Scoring: First ñ 1. AF, Olson (Hajner, Fairchild), 4:19 (ev). Second ñ 2. MN, Gordon (Wheeler, Barriball), 6:18 (ev). Third ñ 3. MN, Pohl (Fisher, Anderson), 5:05 (ev). 4. AF, Olson (Flynn, Mayra) 18:58 (ex). Overtime ñ No Scoring Shoot-out ñ 5. MN, Kaufmann. 6. MN, Barriball. Saves: Minnesota ñ Kangas 11-8-6-5-30 Air Force ñ Volkening 14-8-8-3-33