Men’s Hockey falls 5-1 to Denver

by Brian Deutsch

The Minnesota men’s hockey team remains winless in Western Collegiate Hockey Association play tonight after losing 5-1 to Denver at Mariucci Arena.

And almost surprisingly, the Gophers’ lack of power-play production was the least of their problems against the Pioneers.

Yes, the Gophers (4-3-0 overall, 0-3-0 WCHA) remain in a long drought when on the advantage – they haven’t scored a power-play goal since the first game of the season.

But it was the team’s penalty killing lines that kept Minnesota from notching its first mark in the conference win column.

Denver (5-2-0, 2-1-0) went 3-for-7 while on the power-play and added another two goals during even-strength play.

The Pioneers’ top-three lines all helped produce in the win, and sophomore forward Tyler Ruegsegger provided two of the team’s power-play goals.

“(Denver’s first goal) seemed to energize them a little bit and we sagged a little bit off of that,” Minnesota coach Don Lucia said. “We did a lot of good things getting 37 shots on goal, but it’s hard to win games scoring one goal.”

Sophomore forwards Rhett Rakhshani and Brock Trotter led Denver with three points each (each had one goal and a pair of assists.)

And five goals were plenty for net-minder Peter Mannino to work with considering he played over 51 minutes of shutout hockey.

The senior stopped 36 of 37 shots on goal in the winning effort but what would have been his second shutout of the season was broken up at the 11:10 mark of the final period.

But Mannino’s first-ever win over the Gophers isn’t going to his head.

“Anytime you play against a big-time team like this and get a victory, it feels good,” he said. “But being the first game of the series, you have to put it behind you and hope for another one on Sunday.”

Sophomore forward Ryan Flynn finally got Minnesota on the board when he knocked a rebound past Mannino, but it was far too little too late for Minnesota.

Freshman forward Mike Hoeffel had a chance to further decrease the deficit around the five minute mark of the third but a stingy Pioneers’ defense that allowed few opportunities prevented his power-play attempt from lighting the lamp.

Hoeffel’s first attempt was stone-walled by the defense, but it did bring Mannino out of the net giving the freshman forward from North Oaks, Minn. an open net for a wrap-around attempt.

But the Denver defense arrived just in time to keep Hoeffel’s attempt out of the net.

In goal for Minnesota, Jeff Frazee struggled in his first start since last Thursday’s win over Ohio State.

Frazee allowed five goals on 28 shots and seemed uneasy in between the pipes.

The Burnsville, Minn. native gave out rebounds the way parents give out candy on Halloween.

“It just wasn’t my night,” Frazee said.

Lucia said earlier this week that they would review tonight’s game on the off-day tomorrow to see who gets the starting nod in goal for Sunday.

And looking at Frazee’s performance tonight, freshman Alex Kangas’ chances of another start are looking pretty favorable although Lucia did not say who would be in net for Sunday’s finale.