A host of shots, a resilient effort and a game-clinching save lead to a perfect weekend and an Ice Breaker Tournament for the fifth-ranked Gophers as Minnesota defeated 13th-ranked New Hampshire 3-2 Saturday night at Mariucci Arena.
“It’s a good measuring stick,” Lucia said of the win. “We had to play a good, smart game tonight and I thought we did.”
After a scoreless first period, it was the Wildcats who struck first in the second. Senior defenseman Eric Knodel deflected the puck past sophomore goalie Adam Wilcox and into the net 25 seconds into the period to give New Hampshire the advantage.
But Minnesota continued to throw pucks on net until freshman forward Hudson Fasching tied the game up three minutes later.
The Gophers fell behind again in the second when senior center Nick Sorkin scored to give the Wildcats a 2-1 lead. Again the Gophers rebounded and the tournament MVP Sam Warning scored from a difficult angle to knot the game at 2-2, barely a minute after Sorkin’s goal.
“No one’s going to give up,” junior forward Seth Ambroz said of the team’s comeback ability. “When we answered those goals right away, it gave us a lot of momentum.”
Freshman forward Vinni Lettieri broke the tie with the eventual game-winning goal with 2:10 to play in the second. Lettieri gathered the puck, spun around and fired from the circle to beat DeSmith, and eventually give the Gophers the win.
The play of the night might have come with just seven seconds remaining, when Wilcox brilliantly flashed the leather on a Wildcats’ chance to preserve the win.
“He’s got a flare for the dramatic,” senior defender Justin Holl said. “He was just laughing when he came back to the bench.”
The Gophers outshot New Hampshire 34 to 20, but solid goaltending from net-minder Casey DeSmith kept the Wildcats competitive throughout.
“He’s a very good goaltender,” Ambroz said. “He proved it again tonight.”
The Gophers victory came despite a miserable performance in the special teams department.
Minnesota was 0-for-6 on the power play and failed to produce much of anything in the chances department. The penalty kill unit wasn’t much better, as both of New Hampshire’s goals came with the man-advantage. The Wildcats were 2-for-5 on the night.
“They’re a very good kill team,” Lucia said. “I thought we had more opportunities as the game went on and had some good looks.”
Fasching finished the night with a goal and an assist. Holl contributed two assists and blocked numerous shots to aid in the winning-effort.
Fasching, Holl, Wilcox and Warning were joined on the all-tournament team by junior center Kyle Rau.
Minnesota travels to Bemidji State next weekend to take on the Beavers.