Quick start keeps Ferris State off all day

Adam Fink

Fans had barely settled into their seats Saturday afternoon when Minnesota’s men’s hockey forward Thomas Vanek made a deft backhand pass from behind Ferris State’s net to teammate Matt Koalska, stationed in front of the goal.

Koalska’s one-timer gave the Gophers a 1-0 lead only 13 seconds into the game – a regional record for fastest goal to start a game. Two minutes into the game, Minnesota went up 2-0 and by the 6:09 mark of the first period the Gophers led 3-0.

The early lead was the difference in beating the Bulldogs 7-4.

In defeating Mercyhurst 9-2 on Friday, Minnesota scored two goals in the first five minutes.

The goals not only gave Minnesota early momentum to ride, but deflated Ferris State.

All of this from a team that struggled to start games in the WCHA.

Of the Gophers 174 goals, only 43 have come in the opening stanza.

“For half of the year, we weren’t able to get started early,” coach Don Lucia said. “We have talked all year long about quick starts.”

What changed?

“I think we got tired of the coaches yelling at us,” Vanek joked.

“We’ve had plenty of games decided in the third period,” defenseman Keith Ballard said. “It’s about time we had some that were decided earlier.”

And the early goals did exactly that.

Ferris State coach Bob Daniels never felt his team could recover after Minnesota took a commanding lead.

“They jumped us pretty good,” Daniels said. “We kept fighting but it was a very uphill battle.”

Home sweet home

The Gophers played on their home ice, dressed in their own locker room and had the majority of fans in their favor over the weekend.

But neither of Minnesota’s two opponent coaches or Lucia would change how the system works.

“This was a terrific college hockey environment,” Daniels said. “The fact is this felt like a road game.”

“This is a tough ice to play on,” Mercyhurst coach Rick Gotkin said.

Lucia said the Mariucci Arena was the loudest he has heard in his four years at Minnesota.

He added the Gophers earned everything they received with a strong finish to the year.

“We were given the advantage,” Lucia said. “But we still had to take advantage of it.”

All-tournament team

Minnesota put four players on the all-tournament team for the West Regional.

Grant Potulny, Matt DeMarchi, Ballard and Vanek – also named MVP – made the team. Ferris State goaltender Mike Brown and forward Chris Kunitz rounded out the team.

New records set

Freshman Gino Guyer recorded five assists Friday night against the Lakers.

The mark set a new regional record. In addition, the five assists for the Gophers tied an NCAA tournament record.

The Gophers 27 shots – which resulted in five goals – in Friday’s second period set a regional record.

The old mark of 22 shots was also set by Minnesota on March 24, 1995, against RPI.

Adam Fink covers men’s hockey and

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