Gophers earn sweep over Wayne State with 5-2 win.

Brian Deutsch

Last year, Sports Illustrated called Mariucci Arena “the best venue for college hockey,” and although the validity of that claim could be in question so far this season, this weekend the Gophers introduced some evidence in their favor.

Minnesota followed up a 5-1 over Wayne State last night with a 5-2 win tonight for just its second sweep at home all season.

And although the Gophers had several tic-tac-toe goals this weekend against the Warriors, coach Don Lucia knows that won’t be the case when Western Collegiate Hockey Association play starts up again next week.

“We aren’t going to be the type of team that throws it around four or five times and gets a tap in,” Lucia said. “Öwe have to be a little more blue-collar this year.”

After sweeping non-conference foe Ohio State in a late October series, in fact the first home series of the year for the Gophers, Minnesota actually has a losing record at Mariucci 5-3-1.

On top of that the only other sweep Minnesota (11-9-2 overall, 5-7-0 WCHA) had this year was over Minnesota State in a home and home match-up.

But a sweep didn’t always look like it was in the cards tonight, in fact through the first half of the first period it didn’t look like either team would manage to take the lead.

Literally, neither team had a shot on goal until close to ten minutes into the game.

“We generated some chances,” Lucia said, adding good defense by the Warriors was the cause and not lack of effort by the Gophers.

Minnesota would eventually catch fire and had a much as a four goal lead in the game thanks to ten different point contributors on its roster.

“That has to continue,” Lucia said of the variety of scorers. “You can’t rely on one or two guys from here on out.”

Senior showcase

After taking their licks for most of the season, the senior class answered back this weekend ñ recording 11 points among the team’s five senior skaters.

And with the sixth senior, goalie Brent Solei, picking up a 5-1 win Friday in his first ever start, team captain and fellow senior Derek Peltier feels the group is coming of age.

“I thought the senior class played extremely well. I think all six of us played very well and we have to keep contributing as much as we can for the rest of the year,” Peltier said. “Our time (here) is ending pretty quickly. We have to cherish it and lay it on the line every night.”

Peltier picked up his first goal of the year, the eventual game-winner, and the Plymouth native has shown a sudden offensive spirit since the second half of the season began.

“This is a big second half for (the seniors). We have to get things turned around and after this weekend we are headed in the right direction.”

Blue-line production

Peltier was also part of a Minnesota defense that has become an offensive weapon as of late.

Even without freshman standout Cade Fairchild, the Gophers defensive corps combined for eight points over the weekend including three points (one goal and two assists) from junior defenseman R.J. Anderson.

Lucia said after the game that the team has been working on using the defense as a threat lately ñ something that historically the Gophers have done even if this year’s team has not taken advantage of much.

“A guy like R.J., he wouldn’t have done that a month ago. Now he’s feeling more comfortable and willing to take a little more risk,” Lucia said. “That’s what we’ve been trying to get him to do. Don’t be afraid to take some risks in a game, you just have to pick and choose what the optimal time is.”

Game Summary

1 2 3 Final Minnesota 2 2 1 5 Wayne State 0 0 2 2 Scoring: First ñ 1. MN, Hoeffel (Barriball, Fischer) 13:46 (pp). 2. MN, Wheeler (Fischer, Wehrs) 15:52 (ev). Second ñ 3. MN, Peltier (Kaufmann) 0:46 (sh). 4. MN, Kaufmann (Gordon, Anderson) 10:08 (pp). Third ñ 5. WS, Forgie (Caister, Meadows) 5:21 (pp). 6. WS, Inglis (unassisted) 14:13 (sh). 7. MN, Lucia (Anderson) 15:53 (ev). Saves: Minnesota ñ Kangas 6-11-7-24 Wayne State ñ Bothwell 4-5-NA-9 Devoney NA-7-9-16