Gophers’ huge third period leads to 7-2 drubbing of Calgary in exhibition

Mike Mullen

When Calgary’s Bracken Kearns scored on a breakaway 12:25 into the second period of Thursday night’s exhibition game against Minnesota to tie the score 2-2, a dull murmur fell over the crowd at Mariucci Arena.

It would be more than 12 minutes of ice time and an intermission before the crowd was back to full volume. But by the end of the game, some fans were probably losing their voices.

With the Gophers on the power play approximately five minutes into the third period, center Ryan Potulny sent a pass from the near-left corner that sliced across the ice and stopped dead on the stick of Tyler Hirsch. Hirsch took one stride and roofed his shot, putting Minnesota on top for good, 3-2.

From there, the goals just piled on. By the time the final horn blew, the Gophers were 7-2 victors and Hirsch had added a second goal.

“We finally got Tyler shooting,” coach Don Lucia said. “He’s always trying to make a perfect play, but we want him to just get the puck and rip it. He’s probably got one of the best shots on our team.”

After a scoreless first frame, the Gophers struck first at 4:12 of the second period.

While on the power play, Minnesota’s Ben Gordon slid the puck to Mike Vanelli, who took a one-timer from a step inside the blue line. Barry Tallackson got a stick on the shot to beat goalie Scott Talbot.

Gino Guyer made it 2-0 less than three minutes later with a moment of puck-handling brilliance, splitting two defenders and beating Talbot five-hole.

Both Calgary goals came on misplays from the Minnesota defense. Dinos forward Patrick Tetley collected an errant puck in the Minnesota zone and hit Colin McRae to cut the lead to 2-1 at 8:33 of the first.

Kearns created his short-handed goal by intercepting a cross-ice pass from Minnesota defenseman Nate Hagemo and sprinting up-ice for the breakaway goal to tie the score.

In the locker room during the second intermission, Lucia told his team that most games in the WCHA are decided in the third period, just as this one would be.

Just more than five minutes after Hirsch put the Gophers back ahead, Tallackson repaid the favor and hit Gordon for a goal.

Then, 12 minutes into the third, Hirsch was the recipient of another fine pass. This time, it was a 40-foot laser from defenseman Chris Harrington that left Hirsch all alone with Talbot.

“They dumped the puck in, and we had a good breakout,” Harrington said. “I got lucky with the pass – it went through a couple sticks and ended up hitting Hirsch right on the tape.”

Brett Borgen and Potulny notched the sixth and seventh goals, respectively, to finish off the scoring.

“I think this was a good confidence-booster for the young guys,” Harrington said. “It’s good for them to get those jitters out.”

Hall of Fame Game Sat.

The winners of the last three national championships will face off in the Hall of Fame Game on Saturday, as Minnesota opens its regular season against Denver at 7:07 p.m. at the Xcel Energy Center. Last year, the Pioneers took both meetings and went on to the win the national championship.