Gophers earn needed sweep

Minnesota scored 10 combined goals en route to two wins against No. 7 Colorado College.

by Max Sanders

Facing No. 7 Colorado College in the final full regular season series at Mariucci Arena, the Gophers menâÄôs hockey team skated hard, shot smart and the results showed as Minnesota earned just its third sweep of the regular season in a crucial series. âÄúIt was a weekend we needed,âÄù Gophers head coach Don Lucia said. âÄúI thought we played very well all weekend long against a good quality team.âÄù Minnesota played the entire weekend with a tenacity sorely lacking in previous weeks, and the team used solid play to dominate an apparently overmatched Tigers squad that entered the weekend ranked No. 7 nationally. âÄúThey had us on the ropes a lot,âÄù Colorado College head coach Scott Owens said. âÄúWe had trouble with their speed and their skill, and they were making plays.âÄù The teams were playing back and forth with action fast on each end for most of the first period. With less than six seconds remaining in the period, Mike Hoeffel took the puck on the right boards and chipped it into the TigersâÄô zone. Nico Sacchetti took the pass behind the boards and found Patrick White , who fired a buzzer beater that found the net with just 0.2 seconds remaining. âÄúI knew if I got [the puck], all I could do was throw it as fast as I could,âÄù White said. âÄúFortunately [Sacchetti] put the puck right where I could one-time it, and fortunately I beat the goalie back to the net.âÄù The Gophers took the momentum from the late goal and never looked back. After a scoreless second period, Minnesota struck again just more than a minute into the third period, when Jacob Cepis fired a shot on Colorado College goalie Joe Howe . The puck deflected off Howe and found a waiting Jordan Schroeder in the crease, who knocked the puck in for the score. The Gophers struck again 10 minutes later when Josh Birkholz took a pass from White and fired a wrist shot that went high and past Howe for the goal. Staked to a three goal lead, goalie Alex Kangas was stellar, stopping 26 shots en route to his fourth career shutout, first of the 2009-10 season. âÄúAlex was very good,âÄù Lucia said. âÄúHe looked in real control and big in the net, which is great to see. We need that from him here on out.âÄù SaturdayâÄôs game saw the Gophers match a season high in goals for one game (seven), with the defense providing much of the offensive outburst. The scoring started in the first period, and within a span of two and a half minutes four goals were scored, three by Minnesota. Hoeffel took advantage during a GophersâÄô five-on-three advantage. After a Shroeder shot on net was deflected, Hoeffel put the rebound past Howe for the first goal of the night. David Fischer notched his second goal of the season just 40 seconds later when he took a pass from Birkholz and fired a shot that went low past Howe for the score. Colorado College responded when Rylan Schwartz put a backhander low past KangasâÄô glove side for the goal. But Minnesota was not to be denied, as they continually pressured Howe, who surrendered six goals, four of which came from defensemen. âÄúSome of those [defensemen] we feel have that offensive ability,âÄù Lucia said. âÄúWe got to pound it, take that slap shot; we got rewarded today.âÄù Seven different players scored for LuciaâÄôs team, and the offensive success against a team considered among the conferenceâÄôs best gives Minnesota confidence as they look to finish the regular season strong. âÄúItâÄôs good for the confidence of our team heading into the last four games, which are at this point of the season must-wins for us,âÄù junior Cade Fairchild said. With the sweep, the Gophers are now within three points of the Tigers, who fell into a tie with North Dakota for the No. 5 conference spot. Colorado College hosts the Sioux next weekend, while Minnesota will travel Friday to Duluth to face the Bulldogs in a two-game series.