Minnesota splits weekend series with Michigan Tech

The Gophers head into their 20-day break tied for the lead in the WCHA.

Chaos ensues in front of Michigan Tech's net during Friday's game at Mariucci Arena.  Saturday's contest chippy throughout the game.

Marisa Wojcik

Chaos ensues in front of Michigan Tech’s net during Friday’s game at Mariucci Arena. Saturday’s contest chippy throughout the game.

Dane Mizutani


Both Minnesota and Michigan Tech lined up to shake hands after the Gophers earned a 6-2 victory Saturday.

Despite the trivial display of sportsmanship, tension was still ubiquitous throughout Mariucci Arena, as minutes earlier a brawl between defensemen Seth Helgeson and Carl Nielsen had plunged the game into a tizzy.

âÄúI personally thought it was awesome,âÄù Gophers senior Joey Miller said. âÄúItâÄôs not fun, but when theyâÄôre taking cheap shots itâÄôs good to see when people have their back, and itâÄôs always fun to see your coach get fired up.

âÄúHeâÄôs emotional, heâÄôs got our back, and weâÄôre kind of a family here. ItâÄôs good to show that sometimes even though it kind of got messy.âÄù

In total, the refs doled out 55 penalty minutes in the final 10 minutes of play, and the chaos that ensued overshadowed the end result, a series split for the Gophers.

No. 2 Minnesota (14-5-1, 11-3-0 WCHA) fell to Michigan Tech in a thriller Friday night.

The Gophers dictated the tempo for a majority of the game, but Brett Olson and the Huskies had the last laugh with a goal in overtime.

âÄúIt was nice chip off the wall, and I just happened to be in the right place at the right time, and it turned into a good olâÄô footrace,âÄù Olson said with a smile on his face Friday night. âÄúIt was really nice for us to get the win.âÄù

Mark Alt put the Gophers on the board first when he fired a wrist shot from the point that deflected off of Michigan Tech defenseman Patrick McCadden and trickled past goaltender Josh Robinson.

The Gophers dominated puck possession in the first period, but a fluky goal for the Huskies evened the score.

Blake Pietila controlled the puck behind the net and lazily centered a pass that went off of Travis Boyd to beat goaltender Kent Patterson.

Steven Seigo later added a goal on the power play early in the third period to give Michigan Tech the lead.

It was still early in the period, and six minutes later Helgeson got the crowd back into it.

Helgeson took a pass from Alt off a faceoff in the HuskiesâÄô zone and fluttered a wrist shot over RobinsonâÄôs right shoulder to tie the score at 2-2.

The Gophers had multiple breakaway chances later in the period, but Robinson held up and the game went into overtime.

âÄúWhen you get those opportunities you have to finish,âÄù head coach Don Lucia said. âÄúOur defensemen ended up with both goals tonight, and we didnâÄôt get anything from up front.âÄù

In the extra frame, Olson fought off Helgeson and scored on the only shot of overtime, and the Huskies stole the opening game of the series.

âÄúI think I did what I was supposed to do âÄî he just made a good play,âÄù Helgeson said. âÄúIf I look at it now I probably would have done the same thing âĦ but he made a good move and capitalized on the shot.âÄù

Kyle Rau scored the first goal of the game early in the first period as the Gophers earned a split Saturday.

Rau controlled a rebound with Robinson sprawled out to the left of the net and guided it past the goal line to make it 1-0.

Rau has made a living in and around the crease this season, and with the tap in goal, he now has 12 goals on the season.

Michigan Tech (9-8-1, 6-7-1 WCHA) took a timeout immediately following the goal in attempt to regain its composure. The Huskies were outshot 7-0 prior to the timeout.

âÄúI thought we just came out with better energy mentally,âÄù Lucia said. âÄúItâÄôs more mental than physical. WeâÄôre in good shape so part of itâÄôs just the mental grind of being mentally ready to play a complete game.âÄù

Minnesota still controlled the pace of the game, but a Seth Ambroz unsportsmanlike penalty helped swing momentum.

Jordan Baker capitalized with Ambroz in the penalty box to even the score at 1-1.

Minnesota took the momentum back when Jake Hansen redirected an Erik Haula shot past Robinson on the power play to make it 2-1.

Michigan Tech could not stop the bleeding after HansenâÄôs goal.

The Gophers sensed blood and looked like a shark closing in for the kill late in the second period, but a Blake Thompson game misconduct call bandaged the wound and gave the Huskies new life.

Thompson was ejected from the game for conduct to the head of David Johnstone âÄî giving Michigan Tech a five-minute power play that extended into the third period.

Daniel Sova made it 2-2 when he fired a one-timer from just inside the blue line early in the third period.

Alt then scored his second goal on a Nick Bjugstad-esque one-timer from the left circle.

âÄúNate Schmidt kind of rolled up top so I figured I could step down to the side a little bit and find a lane, and it worked out,âÄù Alt said.

The Gophers never looked back.

Bjugstad, Miller and Hansen added goals in a temper-filled final 10 minutes of play to finalize the score at 6-2.

Minnesota will now start a 20-day break and will resume play Dec. 30-31 when it hosts the Mariucci Classic tournament.

âÄúIt was the kind of effort that we had to have,âÄù Lucia said. âÄúWe all feel pretty good right now that when the first half ends, that weâÄôve got a piece of first place in the league and an 11-3-0 league record.âÄù