Gritty play leads to tie, win at Mariucci

Minnesota beat Canisius on Sunday after tying the U.S. Under-18 team.

Drew Claussen

The Gophers’ performance this weekend was gritty — but not pretty.

Minnesota hung on to beat Canisius 1-0 Sunday  after tying the U.S. Under-18 team 2-2 in an exhibition game Friday night. 

Sophomore forward Kyle Rau wasted little time getting the Gophers on the board Sunday afternoon. He redirected a Jake Parenteau shot into the back of the net just 12 seconds into the contest. 

Minnesota came out with a load of energy. Junior forward Tom Serratore decked a Canisius skater behind the net early in the game.

But the liveliness didn’t last. Following Rau’s goal, the two teams played the rest of the game without scoring.

The lack of offense happened in part because of sloppy play by both teams. But the two goaltenders starred as well.

“We had some good looks, some rebounds, and we just couldn’t get that second one to create any separation,” head coach Don Lucia  said. “As a coach you start to get some anxiety because all it takes is one breakdown and it’s a tie game.”

Minnesota freshman Adam Wilcox made 20 saves  for the first shutout of his college career. He made a number of key saves down the stretch, including a breakaway stop with about three minutes left and a miraculous pad save with less than 20 seconds remaining.

“The team played unreal — it just makes the game a lot easier for me,” Wilcox said of Canisius’ low-shot total. “There’s always a chance at the end for a team … but they made it a lot less work than it usually is.”

Canisius goaltender Tony Capobianco  also performed well, stopping 41 of the 42 shots he faced. Capobianco is no stranger to playing strong in a losing effort, as he entered the game 0-3-1 despite a 1.98 goals-against average.

On Friday, the Gophers found themselves in a position that not many people predicted — trailing in an exhibition game to a team of youngsters.

“You can tell they’ve played some college teams,” Lucia said about the U.S. Under-18 team. “They tied Notre Dame, they tied us and I’m sure they were probably a little bit more excited to play than we are in that situation.”

Despite their lack of size and experience, the youngsters jumped ahead 2-0 on the Gophers in the first period. 

In a way, the Gophers were victimized by one of their own.

Minnesota recruit Vinni Lettieri scored the first goal for the Under-18 team on a beautiful one-time pass from Anthony Louis. Lettieri was recently added to the U.S. Under-18 team’s roster because of injuries.

Seconds later, Tyler Motte stole the puck from a Minnesota skater and beat junior goalie Michael Shibrowski to make it 2-0.

Lettieri was one of two Gophers recruits who played for the Under-18 team — highly touted Hudson Fasching  was the other. Fasching took a hard hit from Serratore during the game and did not return. The hit drew a mixed reaction from the sparse crowd — some almost seemed angry with Serratore.

“It was a good hard hit, and that’s still part of the game,” Lucia said.

In the second period on the penalty kill, the Under-18 team dug itself into a hole when Mike McCarron  hit the Gophers’ Zach Budish  from behind.

The Gophers had more than a minute of 5-on-3 power play time. They looked hapless at points during the advantage until Serratore solved goalie Thatcher Demko to get the Gophers on the board.

Minnesota completed its comeback later in the period when junior defenseman Justin Holl fed a pass from behind the goal line to junior forward Nick Bjugstad, who was waiting backdoor for the routine goal.

Both goalies played well, with Demko facing more shots than Shibrowski. Demko faced 41 shots and made 39 saves; Shibrowski made 27 saves.

“Without question the key was the first eight to 10 minutes,” Under-18 head coach Don Granato  said. “If [Demko] doesn’t make a couple miraculous saves there, it’s probably quite a different game.”