Men’s hockey sweeps Minnesota State with 5-3 win

by Brian Deutsch

Coming into this weekend, the Minnesota men’s hockey team had only scored four times in four conference games.

The Gophers would net that many goals in Friday’s match-up alone and then add five more Saturday to pick up its first two Western Collegiate Hockey Association wins of the season.

The Gophers held off a third period rush by the Mavericks Friday night to win 4-3 at the Alltel Center in Mankato before returning to Mariucci Arena for a 5-3 victory Saturday.

Friday’s win saw Minnesota finally break its drought of 30-straight power-plays without a goal when senior forward Ben Gordon hacked in a goal during the first period.

And after that, as freshman Cade Fairchild had predicted, the flood gates were open.

The Gophers (6-4-0 overall, 2-4-0 WCHA) rounded out the weekend scoring four power-play goals on 10 chances.

But that wasn’t the only drought that ended over the weekend.

Sophomore Kyle Okposo scored a pair of goals in the second period of Saturday’s finale ñ his first goals since the season opener on Oct. 12.

After the game, Okposo said he worked himself out of the slump by picturing himself playing on the pond with his buddies when he a kid.

“I was just a little more relaxed, having fun out there and smiling,” Okposo said. “I kind of enjoyed playing again.”

But the sophomore’s recent slumps didn’t have Mavericks’ coach Troy Jutting’s mind at ease.

“He’s one of the best players in college hockey,” Jutting said of Okposo. “It’s his tenth game of the season, and he (had) one goal, that’s not going to last long.”

Okposo’s pair of goals came during a four-goal second period which Minnesota coach Don Lucia admitted was the best period he’s seen his team play this season.

“Three great things happened for us today. Number one, we won the game; two, we scored again on the power-play; and three, Kyle Okposo scored,” Lucia said. “We needed those things to happenÖI think it was a big relief for (Kyle).”

Minnesota State (3-4-1, 1-4-1) continuously pressured the Gophers in the third period but both nights, the Mavericks had given up too much ground already to make the comeback.

“We climbed over Mankato in the standings this weekend so hopefully, we can keep climbing over teams,” Okposo said.

Fairchild continued to impress coach Lucia ñ recording a three-point performance Saturday (one goal and two assists).

“Cade’s got great vision, he can find people,” Lucia said. “Right now, he’s probably our top offensive defenseman.”

Howe injury

The first period of Saturday’s game didn’t start off in the Gophers’ favor though ñ they went into the first intermission trailing 2-1 and the team lost two forwards in the opening period.

Just 28 seconds into the game, junior forward Justin Bostrom was called for checking from behind and given a game misconduct.

Later in the period, senior forward Mike Howe appeared to lose his footing and crashed head first into the boards.

Howe initially tried to get up, but remained on the ice for around 15 minutes before being taken off the ice on a stretcher.

Preliminary reports said that Howe wasn’t seriously hurt, and he gave fans a thumbs up and he left the ice.

“Hopefully, he’s going to be okay,” Lucia said after the game. “Whether he’s going to be okay for next weekend or not, we’ll have no way of knowing.”