Team’s top talents turn it around for men’s hockey

Lou Raguse

In Minnesota’s men’s hockey team’s convincing win over Denver on Friday, the major difference from the team’s previous games was that the Gophers carried out the things they talked about all week.

Minnesota’s main concern was that the top-tier players were not performing to their capabilities. On Friday, there was a distinct turn-around.

“I’m not surprised,” coach Don Lucia said. “I met with our captains on Monday and I was very direct with some of the things I said and thought.”

Captain Grant Potulny, who last week took much of the responsibility for the team’s sluggish start, had three goals in the series.

Potulny said he took the message from Monday’s meeting as a call to step up.

“And it wasn’t necessarily kind words I had,” Lucia said. “But that’s Grant – he’s the type of guy that takes ownership and that’s why he’s a good leader.”

Lucia also said one of his goaltenders needed to make an additional save to earn consistent starts.

Freshman Kellen Briggs gave Lucia what he wanted on Friday, stopping 25 of Denver’s 27 shots for a .926 save percentage, Minnesota’s first over-.900 save percentage this season.

That performance earned Briggs a start Saturday, and in a losing effort, the freshman still came up with 31 saves, impressing many people with his reflexes.

“I thought Kellen was outstanding,” Lucia said.

Harrington out Saturday

With junior defenseman Keith Ballard already nursing a knee injury, the last thing Minnesota needed was another injury to a blue-liner.

But after getting checked behind the net during Friday’s second period, sophomore Chris Harrington was slow to get up.

“I really didn’t get hit that hard, but my teeth hit the board on the way down,” Harrington said. “Everyone thought I was injured, but I was just looking for my teeth.”

Lucia held Harrington out of the lineup for Saturday’s game and did not know if he would miss any other games.

Sertich plays two spots

After a week of practice at the blue line, sophomore Andy Sertich made the switch from forward to defenseman for Friday’s game.

“I thought it went very well,” said Harrington, who paired with Sertich on defense. “He was a little nervous at first, but after the first period he told me that he was thinking too much out there, and after that I think it was relatively simple for him.”

On Saturday, with Harrington out of the lineup, Lucia moved Sertich back to forward.

“We can kind of go back and forth with him on defense, but we wanted to get some of the other (defensemen) an opportunity to play,” Lucia said. “But more than likely, we may need him back on defense next weekend.”

Vanek leaves game

Sophomore Thomas Vanek did not play in the third period Friday after a collision with Briggs and Harrington.

Vanek and Harrington were skating after the puck when Briggs left the net.

“I had a few headaches before (Saturday’s) game, but it was nothing big,” Vanek said.

The collision did not seem to slow Vanek on Saturday, as he scored two goals while playing multiple double-shifts.

“It doesn’t matter though,” Vanek said. “It’s nice to get some goals, but I’d rather take two wins and no goals.”