U hockey gets share of first

by Michael Rand

Michigan Tech coach Tim Watters said he saw a marked improvement in his team’s play from Saturday’s game against Minnesota to Sunday’s game.
Watters thought Sunday’s effort — a 3-0 loss in which the Huskies allowed 39 shots on goal — was an upgrade from the previous afternoon. That speaks volumes about how much the Gophers dominated on Saturday.
Although Minnesota won both games 3-0, the Gophers outshot the Huskies by an embarrassing 48-11 margin in the series opener. Sunday’s shot totals were a more competitive 39-26 in favor of Minnesota, but the Gophers never appeared to be in jeopardy of losing either game.
“I don’t know if I’m surprised, but it’s kind of nice,” Gophers co-captain Mike Crowley said. “We controlled the puck quite a bit — a lot more than we had in the last eight games.”
Freshman goaltender Erik Day started both games for the Gophers in place of injured starter Steve DeBus. In his first two college starts, Day became the first Gophers goalie to post back-to-back shutouts in a series since Robb Stauber blanked Colorado College on Feb. 26 and 27, 1988.
After starting the season 2-3, the Gophers have won five games in a row to move into a first-place tie with North Dakota and Colorado College in the WCHA. The Huskies dropped to 2-6 in league play.
A quick start was important for the Gophers in both games. Although they only held 1-0 leads at the first intermission each afternoon, the Gophers attempted almost three times as many shots as the Huskies did in the first period and controlled the tempo in the early stages of the games.
It took less than seven minutes for the Gophers to grab the lead Sunday. Operating with a 5-on-3 power play, Dave Spehar redirected Brian LaFleur’s slap shot from the blue line past Michigan Tech goalie David Weninger.
The Gophers increased their lead to 2-0 early in the second period when Mike Anderson received a nice feed from LaFleur and beat Weninger on his glove side.
The Huskies outshot Minnesota 13-12 in the second period, but most of the shots they generated came from long range.
Michigan Tech’s best and essentially last chance to draw closer to Minnesota happened with 12 minutes left in the game. With the Gophers already shorthanded, defenseman Ben Clymer was called for holding, creating a two-man advantage for the Huskies.
But the Gophers killed the first penalty, and a few seconds later Michigan Tech’s Jeff Mikesh was whistled for hooking.
As vague as Sunday afternoon’s hint of tension was, Saturday’s game was even more one-sided. Only a 45-save effort from Michigan Tech goalie Luciano Caravaggio kept the game from being a blowout.
Nate Miller opened the scoring for the Gophers with 6:24 remaining in the first period. Mike Crowley and Erik Rasmussen scored early in the second period, and the Gophers controlled the game the rest of the way.
Michigan Tech mustered just one shot in the second period, and that was a feeble effort with less than 10 seconds remaining in the period.
Watters was noticeably concerned and frustrated by his team’s lack of offense.
“We have to find a way to generate more shots,” he said. “In the second period we had guys just standing around.”
LaFleur said the Huskies — normally a hard-hitting team — were not finishing their checks Saturday like they normally do.
“They weren’t the team they can be,” he said. “(On Sunday) they came out and played more physical. (Saturday), I was kind of surprised because I didn’t get bumped around much.”
Both teams did their share of checking before the weekend was over. The Gophers and Huskies combined for 181 penalty minutes in the series.
Surprisingly, 99 of those minutes belonged to the Huskies. Minnesota came into the weekend as the most penalized team in the WCHA, while Michigan Tech had the second-fewest penalty minutes in the league.
As is typically the case in most lopsided series, things got ugly toward the end of the second game. A skirmish near the Gophers bench with one minute left in the game produced an animated shouting match between Watters and Gophers associate head coach Mike Guentzel. More than one-third of the penalty minutes incurred during the series were accumulated in the final minute of play.

Michigan Tech 0 0 0 — 0
Gophers 1 2 0 — 3

First period: Minn — N. Miller 3 (Berg, Rasmussen), 13:36.
Second period: Minn — Crowley 2 (Berg) PPG, 2:26. Minn — Rasmussen 6 (Crowley, Berg) PPG, 8:26.
Third period: No scoring.

Michigan Tech 0 0 0 — 0
Gophers 1 1 1 — 3

First period: Minn — Spehar 2 (LaFleur, J. Godbout) PPG, 6:53.
Second period: Minn — Anderson 3 (LaFleur, Hendrickson), 2:52.
Third period: Minn — Hankinson 7 (Berg, Crowley) PPG, 19:24.