Gophers sneak into fifth place with Saturday win

With its back against the wall and the potential of having to go on the road to start the playoffs for the second year in a row, the University of Minnesota menâÄôs hockey team found a way to win Saturday night âÄî beating Minnesota-Duluth 5-3 and sliding into the Western Collegiate Hockey AssociationâÄôs last slot for home ice. In a game that went back and forth, Minnesota (14-11-7 overall, 11-10-5 WCHA) got the last lucky bounce when freshman Nico Sacchetti tallied the game-winner midway through the third period. âÄúEven though our seasonâÄôs not over, it felt like it was do or die tonight,âÄù Sacchetti said. Sacchetti was one of five different Gophers to score in a game that jumped Minnesota against Minnesota-Duluth and into fifth in the standings. Ryan Stoa and Justin Bostrom each scored a goal to open the night. Tony Lucia scored just more than nine minutes into the third to tie the game at 3-3 before Sacchetti broke the tie. Mike Hoeffel added a long-range empty netter with 1:03 left to seal the win and give Minnesota the tiebreaker with the Bulldogs. âÄúWe knew what was at stake tonight,âÄù Bostrom, who also assisted on SacchettiâÄôs winner, said. Both teams have 27 points in the conference standings, but the Gophers took three out of four points this weekend âÄî the only series the squads will play against each other this season unless they meet in the playoffs. âÄúHad we lost [Saturday], home ice was over. Now we still have a chance,âÄù Minnesota coach Don Lucia said. âÄúWe had to win tonight, thereâÄôs no question. We couldnâÄôt come away any worse, in my mind, than three out of four points this weekend.âÄù Bulldogs senior MacGregor Sharp spread three back-to-back goals across the second and third after the Gophers jumped out to a 2-0 lead, but it still wasnâÄôt enough to beat the Gophers, who have yet to lose a game this season when they score first. âÄúYou canâÄôt spot teams two goals and expect to win a lot of hockey games,âÄù Minnesota-Duluth coach Scott Sandelin said. âÄúWe tried, and maybe we didnâÄôt have enough left in the tank after coming back.âÄù SharpâÄôs hat trick was just the second given up by Minnesota this season âÄî the first came from St. Cloud StateâÄôs Ryan Lasch, who is now tied with Sharp for the second-most goals in the WCHA, behind StoaâÄôs 18. LaschâÄôs three-goal night also ended in a win for Minnesota. Minnesota-Duluth (16-10-8, 10-9-7) hosts Alaska-Anchorage next weekend in the season finale while the Gophers travel to Michigan Tech with home ice on the line. If the team wins out no team can take away home ice. But anything less than that could see the Bulldogs and Gophers swap spots again âÄîsomething Lucia knows. âÄúNothingâÄôs guaranteed,âÄù he said.