Strong finishes help Gophers sweep Alaska-Anchorage

by Lou Raguse

When Minnesota’s men’s hockey team headed to the locker room after the first period Saturday, it held a lead at 2-1.

Lately, the Gophers seem to have trouble getting past two goals before the third period, coach Don Lucia said. A second-period lull almost cost them the game Friday.

However, that trend didn’t come into play Saturday. Freshman Danny Irmen scored at 5:40 of the second period to make it a 3-1 game, propelling No. 7 Minnesota (20-11-3, 13-10-1 WCHA) to a 5-2 victory against Alaska-Anchorage (10-17-3, 7-16-3).

The Gophers earned a two-game sweep over the Seawolves and a much needed boost after losing two in Duluth the week before.

“After last week, we were kind of down on ourselves,” Irmen said. “It was a must four points this weekend, and we did it.”

Lucia was happy with his team Saturday, aside from a brief lapse early in the game that allowed Alaska-Anchorage forward Curtis Glencross to score a power-play goal.

Minnesota fired back minutes later when Garrett Smaagaard flashed down the ice on a breakaway, deked and scored.

Before the first period ended, Barry Tallackson ended the Gophers’ power-play drought by tapping in a pass from Gino Guyer. Minnesota had been shut out on its previous 16 opportunities.

“Once we got the power-play goal, it relieved a lot of pressure,” Tallackson said. “I just got open, and he found me for the back door.”

Guyer, Tallackson and Irmen each finished with a goal and an assist.

Guyer’s goal – his second of the weekend – will likely be shown with Smaagaard’s on the season highlight reel. Guyer’s initial shot was blocked by Seawolves goaltender Kevin Reiter, but Guyer followed his rebound and – as teammate Grant Potulny was pushed into Reiter – he reached back to flip the puck into the net.

“Irmen’s really coming on now, and Gino had a big weekend,” Lucia said. “I think we can play better, but we played well.”

After the game, Alaska-Anchorage coach John Hill seemed frustrated. His team had several chances to score, and when the Seawolves failed to convert, he said, they became visibly deflated on the bench.

“We struggle to score as it is,” Hill said. “But when we get grade-A opportunities, we need to put them in.”

Also demoralizing for Hill was that the Seawolves’ mental mistakes were turned into Minnesota goals.

On Friday, Alaska-Anchorage goaltender Chris King kept his team in the game for the entire 60 minutes, stopping flurries of shots as the Gophers played a virtual game of keep-away.

However, Guyer’s goal five minutes into the final period was the last time either team would find net, as Minnesota won 3-2.

Alaska-Anchorage spent the last two minutes of the game in the penalty kill, so its hopes of late-period scoring were weakened. Still, Seawolves forward Justin Johnson was able to fire a last-second shot toward Minnesota’s net.

“We still have a young team, and there are growing pains,” Hill said. “But what’s disheartening is I do think the effort was there, and you want to see your guys get some kind of reward for an honest effort.”