Gophers salvage split with SCSU

by Austin Cumblad

The diagnosis Friday night was eerily reminiscent of the week prior.

âÄúWhen we get down 1-0 weâÄôve got to score the next goal, make it 1-1,âÄù head coach Don Lucia said.

Where have we heard that one before?

Oh, thatâÄôs right, last weekend when Nebraska-Omaha showed up at Mariucci Arena and swept in its first-ever Western Collegiate Hockey Association series by building early 4-0 and 3-0 leads. Not to be outdone, this weekendâÄôs visitor, St. Cloud State (2-3-1, 1-1-0 WCHA), went up 5-0 on Friday and breezed to a 5-2 win.

Same tune, different night.

The slow start now a disturbing trend, it looked entirely possible that Minnesota would leave its first two conference series winless.

So Sunday, Lucia juggled the lines in the name of offensive balance, started junior Kent Patterson in the net instead of senior Alex Kangas and put two players on the ice for the first time this season.

A slightly complex remedy for a simple diagnosis, but it worked. Though they again went behind, Minnesota (3-3-0, 1-3-0) scored the next two goals, won 2-1 and earned the split.

âÄúThere was a sense of urgency today,âÄù senior Jacob Cepis, who scored the GophersâÄô first goal and assisted fellow senior Jay BarriballâÄôs game-winner, said. âÄúWe needed these points.âÄù

Of course, thatâÄôs how the Huskies felt, too. Like Minnesota, St. Cloud State limped into the weekend, winless in its last three and able to boast only about a 3-1 season-opening win over the Rochester Institute of Technology.

âÄúWe hadnâÄôt been scoring many goals,âÄù Huskies head coach Bob Motzko said. âÄúGuys need to get that first goal to feel good about their season.âÄù

On Friday the Gophers were happy to oblige. As part of St. CloudâÄôs five-goals-in-two-periods barrage, freshman Nic Dowd scored the first of his career and seniors Brian Volpei and Garrett Roe scored the first of their season.

RoeâÄôs goal and two assists inched him to within 35 points of the HuskiesâÄô all-time career points record, set just last season by Ryan Lasch.

By the start of the third period, the game had pragmatically ended, but senior Mike Hoeffel and junior Taylor Matson scored inconsequential consolation goals before the final horn mercifully sounded.

After the game, Lucia offered up some inconsequential numbers of his own, albeit knowingly.

âÄúWeâÄôve been down 12-0 to start the three home games and then weâÄôre up 8-1 after that,âÄù he said. âÄúBut itâÄôs too little, too late at that point.âÄù

On Sunday it worked out much better when, after the Huskies scored first to widen the GophersâÄô cumulative early game deficit to 13-0, Cepis walked the puck in front of the net less than a minute later and slipped a backhand under St. Cloud goaltender Dan Dunn.

It also helped that DunnâÄôs Minnesota counterpart, Kent Patterson, in net for just the second time this season and first time in the WCHA, was nothing short of spectacular. With the exception of Brett BartaâÄôs seeing-eye goal early in the first, Patterson swallowed up everything flung in his direction, most critically during the HuskiesâÄô lone third period power play, when he anticipated a back-door pass and slid over to make a pad save on Travis NovakâÄôs one-time shot.

Patterson spurred the victory, Lucia said after the game. Cepis credited the win to the team correcting a lot of its defensive issues.

Whatever the catalyst, it was clear after the game that Minnesota was breathing a collective sigh of relief.

âÄúIt was a huge win for us today,âÄù Patterson said. âÄúEspecially to get those first two points [in the WCHA].âÄù

Bjugstad diagnosed with mono

Freshman center Nick Bjugstad was a last-minute scratch from SundayâÄôs game after being diagnosed with mononucleosis.

Lucia said Bjugstad, MinnesotaâÄôs reigning Mr. Hockey, went to a clinic Saturday to be tested and learned shortly thereafter that he had indeed contracted the virus.

âÄúI didnâÄôt know until an hour before practice yesterday,âÄù Lucia said after SundayâÄôs game. âÄúWe actually switched our lines around from practice this morning.âÄù

Senior Mike Hoeffel missed about a month last season with mono, including the St. Cloud series, and said this week that he never felt fully healthy again until after the season ended.

The Gophers travel to Colorado College next week, host Wisconsin Nov. 5-6, and then have a week off. Lucia said he hopes Bjugstad can return for the Nov. 19-20 series at Michigan Tech.