Gophers hockey splits with CC

Michael Rand

In terms of intensity and skill level, this weekend’s hockey series between the University and Colorado College looked more like a clash in late January than a season-opening get-together.
As far as styles go, the high-powered, big-name offenses both teams employed a year ago departed with their huge graduating classes.
But in terms of the outcome, the series was a typical chapter in the recent series between the WCHA’s elite teams.
Using methods that will be each team’s biggest assets this season — the Gophers’ strong goaltending and balanced scoring attack on Friday and the Tigers’ stingy defense on Saturday — Minnesota and Colorado College split at Mariucci Arena for the third consecutive season.
Although the outcome of the series was not make-or-break for either team, it was clear after the Tigers’ split-salvaging 2-1 victory on Saturday that they were far more satisfied than the Gophers, who won 5-2 on Friday.
“We’re happy to accomplish our goal here,” Lucia said. “You can’t get swept in this league.”
Meanwhile, the Gophers locker room was filled with looks of frustration after letting an opportunity to sweep the three-time defending WCHA champs slip away.
“Before the game, a lot of the older guys were saying the first one doesn’t mean anything if we don’t win the second one,” said sophomore defenseman Bill Kohn. “You don’t want to be sitting in the locker room come January thinking 20 minutes in that period could have made a different season. That’s kind of how we’re looking at it right now.”
Last season, the Gophers had a chance to get back into WCHA title contention when the Tigers came to town in February. Minnesota won on Friday but lost on Saturday in that series and eventually finished a distant second in the league race.
And whereas Colorado College is 3-3 in their last six games at Minnesota, the Gophers are 1-4-1 in their last six in Colorado. The teams play at Colorado College in the second-to-last weekend of the season.
“We always end up chasing them, so we really wanted to get four points,” said Gophers center Wyatt Smith. “This game came back to haunt us last year. We needed these points.”
The Gophers used a four-goal explosion in the third period of Friday night’s game to rally for a 5-2 victory.
Colorado College led 1-0 after the first period and carried a 2-1 lead into the second intermission on the heels of Brian Swanson’s goal.
The Gophers were outshot 21-11 during the first two periods, including several close-range opportunities for Colorado College that were turned aside by a sharp Steve DeBus.
Unhappy with the team’s play to that point, co-captain Casey Hankinson decided to get vocal during the break.
“After the Boston University game and the first two periods, I didn’t really know where our team stood,” Hankinson said. “I just wanted to say something, and the guys responded very well.”
Erik Rasmussen tied the score just 4:23 into the third period with a power play goal.
Less than two minutes later, senior Nick Checco had a swift rush up the right boards, went around a Colorado College defender and threw a backhand shot on goal. Tigers’ goalie Judd Lambert made the initial save, but freshman Nate Miller put the rebound in the net to give Minnesota the lead for good.
Mike Anderson scored with 8:53 left and Rasmussen added an empty-net goal with five seconds left to cap the scoring.
Saturday night’s game resembled Friday’s in that Colorado College entered the third period with a 2-1 lead.
Unlike Friday, however, there was no Gophers comeback.
Using its experienced defense, Colorado College played a conservative third period. Coach Don Lucia’s forechecking scheme stifled several of Minnesota’s breakout passes, resulting in limited scoring chances for the Gophers.
Minnesota outshot the Tigers 28-3 in the final two periods Saturday, but many of the shots were either from long range or bad angles.
The Gophers have their first road test of the season next weekend when they face Minnesota-Duluth. Hankinson said how the team performs next weekend will be a good test of its resiliency.
“I think we’re going to be a really good road team,” Hankinson said. “We’re going in next week looking for a sweep.”

Colorado College 1 1 0 — 2
Gophers 0 1 4 — 5

First Period: CC — B. Swanson 1 (Kryway, S. Swanson), 15:35.
Second Period: Minn — J. Godbout 1 (Spehar), 1:29. CC — Bodtker 1 (B. Swanson, I. Peterson), 15:15.
Third period: Minn — Rasmussen 1 (Clymer, Spehar) PPG, 4:23. Minn — N. Miller 1 (Checco), 6:14. Minn — Anderson 1 (Crowley, Hankinson) PPG, 11:07. Minn — Rasmussen 2 (Hankinson) ENG, 19:55.

Colorado College 1 1 0 — 2
Gophers 1 0 0 — 1

First Period: Minn — Crowley 1 (Kraft, Rasmussen), 7:09. CC — Voorhees 1 (Cheyne, Rud), 9:09.
Second Period: CC — B. Swanson 2 (Rud, Elfring), 12:02.
Third Period: No scoring.