Lucia earns 600th win in split

The Gophers rebounded with a win Saturday after losing Friday to Michigan Tech.

by Drew Claussen

The Gophers were flying high following an opening-weekend sweep of Michigan State. This weekend, Michigan Tech brought them back to earth.

The Huskies and Gophers split their Western Collegiate Hockey Association series this weekend. Michigan Tech won 5-3 on Friday and the Gophers won 3-2 on Saturday.

Saturday’s win was the 600th of coach Don Lucia’s career. Lucia is the fourth active coach to reach that milestone. The victory was his 321st while at the helm of the Gophers.

“It’s nice, but personally I’m happier to get win No. 1 in the WCHA this year,” Lucia said. “We didn’t want to certainly start the year 0-2.”

Minnesota looked flat Friday, as Michigan Tech used a three-goal first period to catapult itself to a victory. The Huskies got goals from Alex Petan, Blake Pietila and Dennis Rix in the first. Minnesota countered with a shorthanded goal from Nate Schmidt and trailed 3-1 after the first.

Nick Bjugstad scored early in the second period to pull the Gophers to within one goal, but Michigan Tech answered with two goals by Chad and Blake Pietila.

Travis Boyd scored with a little more than two minutes left in the third, but a comeback wasn’t in the cards.

The Gophers’ defense Friday resembled a turnstile, as they had multiple turnovers and shaky goaltending. Junior Michael Shibrowski started the game and gave up four goals on 14 shots. Adam Wilcox gave up one goal on 11 shots in mop-up duty.

Minnesota responded with a hard-fought effort Saturday, thanks in part to Seth Ambroz.

“He didn’t have a very good game [Friday],” Lucia said of Ambroz. “He’s one of those sophomores that we felt has to have a good year for us.”

Ambroz scored the first and final goal in the Gophers’ 3-2 win. Ambroz notched the game-winner with less than five minutes left in the game.

“It was a great way to bounce back,” Ambroz said. “It was a great way to respond, and that’s what we talked about.”

Minnesota never trailed in the game and persevered despite Michigan Tech goaltender Pheonix Copley’s solid play throughout the game. Minnesota had 31 shots in the game to the Huskies’ 18.

“Both goalies played extremely well tonight,” Lucia said Saturday. “Michigan Tech’s got a good team — we talked about that coming in.”

Wilcox made 16 saves and improved to 2-0 on the season.

Ambroz got the party started near the end of the first period when he backhanded a rebound past Copley.

Both teams found the net in the second. Erik Haula scored his third goal of the season, but the goal was sandwiched between goals by Chad Pietila and Ryan Furne.

The game appeared destined for overtime, but Ambroz went top shelf for the game-winner with 3:35 left.

Lucia switched up the defensive pairings Saturday, returning to some of the pairings that were used last year. Freshmen Mike Reilly and Brady Skjei joined Seth Helgeson on the third line while Skjei saw some time at right wing.