Men’s hockey cruises in exhibition opener

Austin Cumblad

Perhaps tempered by memories of last season, a cautious optimism permeated comments after the Minnesota menâÄôs hockey team made easy work of British Columbia on Sunday night, scoring four goals in the first period on the way to a 6-0 exhibition win. After all, the Gophers similarly dominated the Thunderbirds 6-1 a year ago and then opened its regular season the following weekend with a 4-0 loss to North Dakota. But even though it was, as head coach Don Lucia said, âÄújust an exhibition game,âÄù there was plenty to be positive about. MinnesotaâÄôs trio of goaltenders played a period each to combine for the shutout, a pair of freshmen scored and one Jake Hansen, a junior winger, hinted at the possibility of a breakout offensive year with two impressive goals. âÄúIt was what we wanted out of the game,âÄù Lucia said. âÄúThe goaltenders had to make some savesâĦand we got off to a good start. I thought we played with good energy tonight.âÄù Senior Jacob Cepis nabbed the inaugural (albeit unofficial) goal of the 2010-11 season less than five minutes into the game, sparking a barrage of Gophers offense. Before the clock ticked past seven minutes in the first period, Minnesota had mounted a 4-0 lead and a pair of freshmen had loudly announced their arrival to the squad. On the heels of HansenâÄôs first goal, freshman center Erik Haula took a well-timed back-door pass from senior Mike Hoeffel and directed it into the net. Less than three minutes later, fellow freshman Tom Serratore scored as well on the first of his three golden chances. The other two clanged off the pipe, so he ended the game inches away from a hat trick. âÄú[Serratore had] two open nets, we were teasing him about it,âÄù Cepis said, before adding that all the freshmen played well. Though Minnesota was unable to maintain the breakneck scoring pace of the first period, senior Patrick White slid a back-door shot past Thunderbirds goalkeeper Graeme Gordon in the second âÄî prompting Gordon’s early exit âÄî and Hansen added his second goal in the third on Gordon’s replacement Joe Rodwell. Meanwhile, Lucia divided the Gophers’ net-minding duties between all three of his keepers; senior Alex Kangas and juniors Kent Patterson and Jake Kremer each played a period (in that order) for a collective shutout. Patterson was the busiest, but each had his moment of brilliance. Without making too much of the performance against a decidedly overmatched opponent, Hansen said the quick goals, the shutout and the teamâÄôs chemistry make him optimistic about the season. âÄúI donâÄôt know if weâÄôre going to be as skilled as last yearâÄôs team, but we have guys that know their roles,âÄù he said. âÄúThis is a team that IâÄôm very excited to play with.âÄù