Goaltending duo plays as advertised, each start once

by Lou Raguse

Last week, it was made clear that both Minnesota men’s hockey goaltenders would see playing time at the Maverick Stampede over the weekend.

True to his word, coach Don Lucia gave the duo ample ice time.

Each goalie played a full game, and after both games Lucia said he was pleased with their efforts.

Junior Justin Johnson, the Gophers’ top goalie, came back to Minnesota with a 0-1 record after losing the tournament’s opening game, but he faced a ferocious Maine attack.

He stopped 23 shots for a .852 save percentage.

“I don’t think it was (Johnson’s) fault we lost,” Lucia said after the Maine game. “Turnovers led to a lot of shorthanded goals.”

Freshman Kellen Briggs saw his first collegiate action Saturday against Nebraska-Omaha. He allowed three goals and made 28 stops.

All three goals came in the second period, as the Mavericks moved the puck across the ice with ease and forced Briggs out of position.

“It’s about what I expected,” Lucia said of his goaltenders’ performances. “They are going to make some good saves and maybe let some in, but it’s early and it’s our job to coach them.”

Lucia went with other changes in Minnesota’s second game of the tournament. Defensively, Keith Ballard paired with P.J. Atherton on Saturday after pairing with Chris Harrington against Maine. Lucia said he was impressed with Atherton’s play.

A step forward

One glaring statistic from Minnesota’s game against Maine was the lack of shots on goal by the Gophers’ highly touted forwards.

Last year’s national top rookie scorer, Thomas Vanek, had only one shot Friday, as did Gino Guyer. Senior captain Grant Potulny and three other forwards were held without a shot on goal.

In contrast, every forward who played Saturday had at least one shot reach Nebraska-Omaha’s goaltender.

Lucia was particularly pleased with the diversity in scoring. Six players scored goals, including freshman Danny Irmen, who scored his first goal in a Minnesota uniform.

“I thought Danny Irmen’s line had lots of energy,” Lucia said.

Qwest Center quiet

The last time Minnesota faced Maine, it was in front of 19,324 screaming fans at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

On Friday, they played in a similar arena with a much different atmosphere.

Although no official attendance was announced, fans filled only a small fraction of the 14,700 seats at Qwest Center Omaha in a game that featured two of the nation’s top teams.

“It didn’t affect me,” Lucia said of the arena’s exhibition-game-like ambiance.

Nebraska-Omaha begins play in the Qwest Center this season after stringing together 131 consecutive sellouts at the 8,310-seat Civic Auditorium.

All-tournament team

Junior defenseman Judd Stevens, who scored two goals in the Gophers’ 7-3 win over Nebraska-Omaha, was the only Minnesota player named to the Maverick Stampede all-tournament team.

Maine, the tournament’s champion after a 6-2 victory over Wisconsin, had three members on the team.

Black Bears’ senior Todd Jackson, who scored two goals against the Gophers on Friday, was named the tournament’s most valuable player.