Kaufmann and Carman lead Minnesota in sweep

Mark Remme

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – The Minnesota men’s hockey team entered its series with Colorado College having a solid grasp on the MacNaughton Cup.

After a series sweep at Colorado Springs World Arena, it’s more like a sleeper hold.

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st. cloud state
when: 7:07 p.m. Friday
where: St. Cloud

The second-ranked Gophers squeaked out a pair of 3-2 wins, snatching four points from a Colorado College team that, coming into the game, had the best conference record at home.

Coupled with No. 4 St. Cloud State’s loss and tie to enigmatic Wisconsin in Madison, Wis., the Gophers (25-5-3 overall, 17-4-3 Western Collegiate Hockey Association) opened up a seven-point WCHA lead.

The victories came with an emphasis on contribution from unlikely sources.

Junior forward Evan Kaufmann, fresh off a 10-game absence due to a leg injury, netted two third-period goals in his return to the ice Friday night.

Then in Saturday’s game, freshman center Mike Carman scored a pair of his own, his first goals since notching two shorthanded tallies against Michigan on Nov. 25.

Coach Don Lucia said the production from all ends of the bench emphasizes his team’s strong suit.

“We’re a team in the true sense of the word,” Lucia said. “We don’t have a bunch of high-scoring guys but we have a lot of guys who are chipping in right now.”

The games against the Tigers weren’t all pretty, but in the end they yielded exactly what the Gophers hoped for on the road trip.

And they fought for every inch of those wins.

Minnesota couldn’t quite lose Colorado College no matter how hard it tried. While they never trailed in the series, the Gophers gave up two one-goal leads on Friday and one two-goal lead on Saturday.

But in each instance, Minnesota found an answer.

Kauffman proved to be that answer – twice – on Friday. His first goal came on a deflection off traffic in front of the net, and the second came on a shot that bounced off the helmet and shoulder of Tigers goaltender Matt Zaba before finding its way into the net.

It’s the type of puck luck the Gophers haven’t seen in almost four weeks.

“We hadn’t been getting some bounces lately so to get some our way feels good,” senior goalie Kellen Briggs said.

Things took more of a drastic turn Saturday as Minnesota took a 2-0 lead into the second intermission at about the same time St. Cloud State tied the Badgers, and a seven-point advantage in the league standings looked imminent.

Two unanswered goals by the Tigers caused that notion to be questioned, however.

But Carman stifled those thoughts with the game-winning goal 22 seconds after Colorado College freshman winger Mike Testwuide knotted the score at 2-2.

Carman said finding the net that quickly after the Tigers stole all the momentum took the wind out of Colorado College’s sails.

Heading home, Minnesota sits primed and ready to clinch the WCHA regular season championship.

With three of their final four games at Mariucci Arena, there’s a good chance the Gophers will accept the trophy on home ice like last year.

But with league parity at an unprecedented high, team members know the fight isn’t over until the statistics say so, and they’re still set on taking it one weekend at a time.

“We came in with the mindset that we wanted the sweep,” Carman said. “This is a team that’s not going to take a night off the rest of the season.”