Gophers split in Michigan road trip

Minnesota lost 6-0 to Michigan on Friday but beat Michigan St. 2-1 Friday.

by Max Sanders

Entering the College Hockey Showcase as losers of three-straight games, the Gophers still felt they were playing solid, sound hockey despite recent results. Looking to rebound in a tournament in which they entered as the all-time wins leader with 16, the final buzzer against the Wolverines on Friday night couldnâÄôt come soon enough. âÄúThey were quicker tonight; they were able to get to the puck first,âÄù head coach Don Lucia said. âÄúThey were able to move it a lot quicker than we were tonight, and they were the better team.âÄù The first period was the most hotly contested, resulting in just one Michigan goal. Minnesota actually had the first chance at a lead, but a shot by Mike Hoeffel hit off the crossbar, ending the GophersâÄô only real threat of the night. With just more than a minute remaining in the first, MichiganâÄôs David Wohlberg fired a shot from inside the GophersâÄô zone that got past Alex Kangas , giving the Wolverines the 1-0 lead. In the second period, Minnesota committed two penalties. The Wolverines capitalized each time, scoring two power-play goals on their way to a three-goal second period. âÄúYou canâÄôt get on the road and fall behind by a couple,âÄù Lucia said. âÄúMichigan was the better team and deserved to win.âÄù The speed of the Wolverines was on full display as they controlled action throughout the second period, scoring seemingly at will against a Gophers team that looked sluggish and overmatched. Heading into the third period down 4-0, Minnesota was forced to play an offensive style of hockey, which Lucia said isnâÄôt ideal for this team. âÄúWeâÄôre not a high-scoring team,âÄù Lucia said. âÄúYou get down by three or four youâÄôre not going to come back and win that game. We have to play better defensively than what we played tonight.âÄù Michigan added two third-period goals to win the Friday opener 6-0. The loss was the low point on what has been a disappointing start to the season for Minnesota. After 13 games, the Gophers have been shutout four times, tying the single-season Minnesota record which was last set in the 1955-56 season. The loss is the worst in the 11-year tenure of Lucia, besting the previous mark of futility set in 1998 when the Gophers lost 7-1 to Colorado College. Saturday provided a chance for a season-defining game as Minnesota had a chance to respond after one of the worst losses in program history against No. 8 Michigan State. Sophomore goalie Kent Patterson got the nod over Kangas on Saturday night and had a career-game beginning with a big stop in the first period. With the game scoreless, Michigan StateâÄôs Daultan Leveille blocked a Minnesota shot and took the puck all alone for the breakaway, hoping to give the Spartans the early lead. Patterson came up with the save and kept the game scoreless through one period. âÄúHe came down. I knew I had to make the save obviously,âÄù Patterson said. âÄúIt was huge for our team, just to keep us in it right away; [weâÄôve] got to make big saves to win hockey games.âÄù The first goal of the night came three minutes into the second period from the GophersâÄô hottest scorer. Jordan Schroeder took a pass from Nico Sacchetti and fired a wrist shot high and into the net for the first Minnesota goal and lead of the weekend. The goal is SchroederâÄôs fourth in the past six games. Late in the third period, Michigan State tied up the game at 1 with a goal by Andrew Rowe . Staring at a tie with three minutes remaining, senior Mike Carman scored the eventual game-winner just 39 seconds after the equalizer by the Spartans. âÄúTo tell you the truth, I was about to go change, and I saw our guys keep it in,âÄù Carman said. âÄúI turned around, and the puck popped out right in the slot. I just got it and picked my head up quick and just unloaded it on net. We had a nice screen, and I donâÄôt think the goalie ever saw it.âÄù Patterson had a career-best 37 saves and earned his first win with the Gophers. âÄúHe was amazing back there. He made a lot of key saves for us at key times,âÄù Carman said. âÄúHe definitely played a great game for us tonight.âÄù Despite coming in non-conference play, the 2-1 win was arguably MinnesotaâÄôs biggest of the season, considering the loss suffered just a day earlier. âÄúIâÄôm just happy the way we came back and played after a kind of abysmal performance last night,âÄù Lucia said. The Gophers are now 5-8-1 after the weekend split and will have a home-and-home series against Minnesota State-Mankato beginning this Friday at Mariucci Arena.