Gophers eliminate Seawolves

Minnesota’s men’s hockey team earned a berth in the WCHA Final Five next weekend with a 3-1 game three victory over Alaska Anchorage

Mark Remme

Alaska Anchorage gave Minnesota’s men’s hockey team more than it wanted to deal with in their Western Collegiate Hockey Association first round matchup.

The 10th-seeded Seawolves forced a decisive game three with an overtime goal Saturday night, setting the stage for the top-seeded Gophers to escape Mariucci Arena on Sunday with a 3-1, series-clinching victory.

“We knew this was our first real crucial game of the season, and if we didn’t win we wouldn’t be going to the (WCHA) Final Five,” junior forward Ben Gordon said. “That really hit home.”

Minnesota used a third period goal from freshman center Mike Carman to break a 1-1 tie at 8:44, then sealed the win with a shorthanded goal by freshman center Kyle Okposo with 1:25 remaining.

The Gophers used a sound defensive plan to hold Alaska Anchorage at bay. Sophomore goalie Jeff Frazee saw just 12 shots on goal in the contest, only letting one slip through.

That one goal gave the Mariucci crowd of 9,706 a scare. Seawolves freshman winger Kevin Clark capitalized on a turnover in the corner and skated the puck up the goal line before beating Frazee on the far side of the net.

Clark’s goal gave Alaska Anchorage a 1-0 lead, but it would be all the Seawolves would get.

Carman noted strategic fore-checking as the main component for the low shot total, saying the Gophers coaching staff stressed locking up the boards and not letting Alaska Anchorage get a solid rhythm.

“The coaches stressed defense first,” Carman said. “Defense helps generate offense.”

Clark’s goal stood as the lone tally until Gordon took a pass from freshman forward Jay Barriball on the power play and beat Seawolves junior goalie Nate Lawson on a give-and-go type play.

Gordon’s second period goal tied the score at one, but perhaps what changed momentum for good was a penalty Gordon took midway through the first.

Gordon received a five-minute major for charging the goaltender, but Alaska Anchorage was unable to convert on the man-advantage.

“That’s the thing with five-minute majors,” Minnesota coach Don Lucia said. “If you don’t score on them you can lose momentum.”

Lucia said he wasn’t nervous after the Seawolves got the 1-0 advantage, but he said if Alaska Anchorage would’ve scored on Gordon’s major it might have been a different story.

Carman said in the end Minnesota “perservered,” and as a result the Gophers will remain the top-seeded team in the WCHA tournament headed into the Final Five next weekend.

The Gophers will play next Friday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul against the winner of Thursday’s play-in game. Game time is set for 7 p.m.

GAME SUMMARY

1st 2nd 3rd — T

Seawolves 1 0 0 — 1

Gophers 0 1 2 — 3

Scoring:

1st: UMN: no scoring; UAA: Cark-8 (Lunden-9)

2nd: UMN: Gordon-11 (Barriball-21); UAA: no scoring

3rd: Carman-7 (Flynn-8, Lucia-8), Okposo-19 (Lucia-9)

Goaltending

Frazee: (W 13-2-1) 11 saves

Lawson: (L 10-15-2) 26 saves

Overall Records

Minnesota: 28-9-3

Alaska Anchorage: 13-21-3

Officials:

Derek Shepherd (referee), Tim Swaider (Linesman), Scott Staudte (Linesman)

A: 9,706