Gophers grab Icebreaker title

Minnesota captured its first Icebreaker championship with a pair of wins.

Brian Deutsch

Playing prototypical Gophers hockey for all of three periods in this weekend’s two games proved to be just enough as the Minnesota men’s hockey team clinched its first-ever Icebreaker Invitational title.

up next

Colorado College
what: Men’s Hockey
when: 8:37 p.m., Friday
where: Colorado Springs

The fifth-ranked Gophers posted a 4-3 comeback win over RPI on Friday night before notching another 4-3 win over Michigan in Saturday’s championship game.

On Friday, Minnesota (2-0-0 overall, 0-0-0 Western Collegiate Hockey Association) came out sluggish, allowing the Engineers to jump out to a 3-0 lead only to take charge in the final 30 minutes of the game when the Gophers recorded four unanswered goals.

Junior forward Ryan Stoa, who was injured later in the weekend, put the Gophers on the board followed by goals from junior forward Blake Wheeler and senior forward Evan Kaufmann to even the contest at 3-3.

But when RPI (0-2-0, 0-0-0 ECAC) was whistled for its 11th penalty of the game – this time a five-minute major with just five minutes left in the game – the momentum was all in Minnesota’s favor.

And with 1:11 left on the clock, sophomore Kyle Okposo recorded his fourth career game-winning goal to complete the comeback.

“I thought it was a well contested game. Ö We came out on the short end of some unfortunate calls in the third period,” Engineers coach and Cottage Grove native Seth Appert said. “Without looking at the tape it’s tough to say, but I’m surprised at how many (penalties) we had in a row.”

The positions were reversed the following night when Minnesota came out early and took a 2-0 lead in the first period.

Minnesota’s first goal came from an unlikely source – junior defenseman R.J. Anderson, whose rifle from the blue line beat a screened Billy Sauer in goal for the Wolverines.

Anderson’s goal was one of Minnesota’s many firsts in the evening, as it was the junior’s first collegiate goal.

“I’ve hit so many pipes, it’s kind of been a joke going around the team,” Anderson said. “When one finally goes in, you think of how long it’s been. It’s just nice to get one in the back of the net.”

Anderson had gone 70 games without a goal before lighting the lamp on Saturday.

Three Minnesota freshmen also picked up their first points as members of the maroon and gold.

Defenseman Cade Fairchild assisted on Anderson’s goal while forward Mike Hoeffel clamored an assist on junior forward Blake Wheeler’s goal less than two minutes later.

The two early goals seemed to relax the Gophers, which gave a young Michigan team the chance for a comeback.

The No. 10 Wolverines (1-1-0, 0-0-0 CCHA) scored three goals in the final two periods bringing the game to within one.

Freshman forward Patrick White notched his first career goal at the 5:27 mark of the third period for the eventual game winner with a top-shelf wrist shot that beat Sauer.

Sophomore forward Ryan Flynn also recorded a goal in the win.

After the game, Lucia talked about the team’s varying performances between the two games.

“Mistakes are going to be made. Ö The difference in the game was the way Jeff (Frazee) played,” Lucia said. “I’m really happy with the way we found a way to win.”

The one constant for Minnesota over the weekend was Frazee.

Although Frazee allowed six goals in the tournament, he still maintained a save percentage of .920 while making 69 saves on the weekend – 44 of them coming Saturday night.

“Jeff played the way, quite honestly, I anticipated he would play,” Lucia said. “He was very good, rock solid.”

Notes:

• The win over RPI was Lucia’s 500th career win. He now owns a career record of 501-251-58.

• No. 2 Boston College (1-1-0, 0-0-0 Hockey East) recorded four unanswered goals (three power play and one short handed) to edge out RPI 4-1 in the consolation game. The Engineers were called for 20 penalties over the weekend and gave up six power-play goals.