Success between the pipes

Mark Remme

Two Mariucci Arena locker rooms, sitting just down the hallway from each other, could’ve passed as two different worlds Saturday night.

With a two-game sweep in a home-and-home series, St. Cloud State outperformed Minnesota’s men’s hockey team and raised eyebrows toward a Huskies squad that showed the composure needed for postseason success.

And if the playoffs end with Minnesota repeating last year’s early exit while St. Cloud State makes a trip to St. Louis for the NCAA Frozen Four, a prime reason will be the difference between the pipes.

The Gophers’ goaltending rotation of sophomore Jeff Frazee and senior Kellen Briggs sputtered against the Huskies’ offense.

Frazee often looked uncomfortable in the net Friday, giving up big rebounds and failing to stop all shots he seemingly had in clear view. Briggs harbored a two-goal, second-period lead before St. Cloud State made a comeback.

“We can’t give up nine goals in a weekend, that’s the bottom line,” Minnesota coach Don Lucia said. “You can’t give up four goals (in a game) this time of year – you’re not going to win. Period.”

In the other crease, Huskies senior goalie Bobby Goepfert made all the necessary saves.

He all but shut the Gophers down Friday and kept St. Cloud State close on the road Saturday, while trailing 3-1.

“All-American goalies do that – they hold you in there,” Huskies coach Bob Motzko said after Saturday’s win. “The whole thing falls into his lap.”

It was apparent all weekend Goepfert was doing his part. The native of Kings Park, N.Y., stopped 68 of 72 shots on goal in the two-game series and made head-scratching saves when his team needed them most.

After the last second ticked off the clock Saturday, Motzko pointed to his senior netminder from the bench.

“Did anyone look at (Goepfert) when the horn sounded? I did – there was nobody more fired up in this building than him,” Motzko said. “He’s on a mission at the end of his college career I’m telling you.”

That mission might springboard St. Cloud State to national success and, in the process, increase Goepfert’s potential Hobey Baker candidacy.

Gopefert’s 2.12 goals against average and .929 save percentage entering the weekend are just part of his strong résumé.

“Goaltending kept them in and gave them a chance to win,” Lucia said. “They’ve got a chance to win it all because they don’t give up many goals, and they can move the puck around.”

With an impressive 2-0-2 record against Minnesota, widely believed to be the best team in the country up until four weeks ago, St. Cloud State leapfrogged over the Gophers to the No. 2 spot in the latest polls, while Minnesota fell to fourth.

It’s a continuing pattern for both squads, which look headed in two separate directions after a lopsided meeting like this weekend’s.

And if Goepfert’s play between the pipes this past weekend is any indication of things to come, the Huskies could find themselves playing deeper into the spring than the highly touted Gophers.