Trailing 2-0 midway through the second period Saturday night, Minnesota men’s hockey forward Brett MacKinnon nailed Colorado College’s Mark Stuart with a hard check in the Tigers’ zone.
Not only did the play energize the 10,129 fans at Mariucci Arena, but it brought new life to the sixth-ranked Gophers.
“The whole game seemed to turn around on MacKinnon’s hit,” starting goaltender Travis Weber said.
Forty-five seconds later, freshman Gino Guyer scored off a sharp pass from fellow rookie Thomas Vanek, who was stationed behind the Colorado College net.
Vanek scored in the third period to force overtime and eventually a tie at 2-2.
On Friday night, the Gophers never got the big hit to jump-start the team. Minnesota appeared tired on the ice and wasn’t able to recover from a second period deficit of 5-0.
The conference-leading Tigers (9-1-1, 6-0-1 WCHA) went on to defeat the Gophers 7-3, making the Saturday game crucial.
“It’s important to get points every weekend in this league,” Minnesota coach Don Lucia said. “We had more guys playing harder and for a longer stretch. This also shows if we play hard, we can play with anyone.”
The first 20 minutes of the Saturday game was again a struggle for Minnesota (5-3-2, 2-2-1).
Colorado College held the advantage in shots at 12-3 and sent the Gophers into the locker room with a two-goal deficit.
But over the final 45 minutes of the game, the Gophers received the goaltending and offense needed for the comeback.
Minnesota outshot the Tigers 34-20, and Weber made saves on three odd-man rushes late to preserve the game.
“We battled back, and we have to be happy with that,” Vanek said. “They outplayed us for awhile.”
Colorado College outplayed Minnesota all night Friday.
Minnesota again trailed 2-0 in the first period and never appeared to get in sync on either end of the ice.
Starting goalie Justin Johnson allowed six goals. However, on four of those scores, the defense either was out of position or turned the puck over.
The Gophers closed the gap at 5-3 behind goals from Judd Stevens, Andy Sertich and Vanek.
Colorado College put the game out of reach with two goals – including one empty-netter – in the final 45 seconds of the contest.
“We stayed composed and patient,” Tigers coach Scott Owens said. “I was proud our team came out and executed well.”
Despite taking only one standing point a series with arguably the hottest team in the nation, Minnesota didn’t feel it could accurately gauge itself due to injuries and youth-filled lineup.
However, the Gophers players stressed the importance of this weekend’s series with Michigan Tech as a way to make up ground in the standings.
“We need four points (against the Huskies),” Vanek said. “We can’t settle for anything else.”
Four recruits sign
Minnesota announced the signing of four recruits this weekend to national letters of intent.
Forwards and North Dakota natives Danny Irmen and Ryan Potulny are both currently playing for the USHL’s Lincoln Stars.
Defensemen and Minnesota natives Jake Taylor and Mike Vannelli also have signed on.
All four will begin competing in the 2003-04 season.
Adam Fink covers men’s hockey and
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