Gophers knocked out of Final Five with 2-1 loss

In the Western Collegiate Hockey Association Final Five play-in game, Minnesota-Duluth was able to accomplish what they hadnâÄôt been able to do in the regular season âÄì beat Minnesota. Behind a 39-save performance from Alex Stalock, the Bulldogs cruised into the semifinals with a 2-1 win Thursday night in front of 17,611 fans. The loss eliminated Minnesota from the WCHA playoffs and crippled the teamâÄôs chances of earning an at-large bid to the national tournament when the field is announced on Sunday. âÄúWe donâÄôt control our own destiny,âÄù Gophers coach Don Lucia said. MacGregor Sharp scored 3:26 into the game when Alex Kangas coughed up a rebound to the senior in front of the net. After the second period, Kangas, who had been suffering from the flu all week, was pulled in favor of a healthy Kent Patterson. Kangas finished the game with nine saves on ten shots. Patterson, whose only collegiate start came in a 2-2 overtime time with the Bulldogs on Feb. 27, had similar struggles in relief. The freshman gave up one goal in the second period when Matt Greer knocked in a rebound to take a two-goal lead. He ended his two periods with 19 saves. Meanwhile, Stalock and the Minnesota-Duluth defense kept four men back in the defensive zone and used the small ice sheet to limit the Gophers offense. âÄúWe needed to adjust our game tonight, and it took us a little too long to do that,âÄù Gophers captain Ryan Stoa said despite his teamâÄôs 40 shots on goal. Stalock showed why he was this yearâÄôs WCHA Goaltending Champion by stopping all but one of those shots. âÄúOur best player was out best player,âÄù Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin said of the junior from South St. Paul. And when he wasnâÄôt on, Stalock was either lucky or was saved by good defense. Mike Hoeffel was taken down during a first period breakaway and Nico Sacchetti missed an open net in the third that would have tied it the game at 2-2. âÄúWe didnâÄôt have a lot of guys have great games,âÄù Lucia said after MinnesotaâÄôs perfect 4-0 record in the Thursday play-in game came to an end. The one time StalockâÄôs luck ran short came when Cade Fairchild blasted a shot from the point that bounced off a Bulldogs defenseman and into the net early in the third period. But by then Minnesota-Duluth held enough of an advantage to hold on and advance to face North Dakota in FridayâÄôs semifinal matchup.