It was a long break, but the Gophers were able to break the losing streak before the new year.
Minnesota looked to complete its first sweep of an opponent since November 17th and 18th against Harvard, and they did just that against Army West Point Friday and Saturday night.
The Gophers completed the sweep over Army West Point with a 3-0 shutout Friday, and a 4-1 win Saturday.
“Another hard-fought win,” said head coach Don Lucia Saturday. “Really happy for [goaltender] Mat Robson to get his first win as a Gopher, I thought he made a lot of really good saves [Saturday.]”
In the second consecutive series, Lucia decided to play two goaltenders, with one game for Robson, and one for Eric Schierhorn, the Gophers’ sole starting goaltender of the last two-plus years before the last series against Ohio State.
Schierhorn got the 13-save shutout Friday, but it was Robson, in his second career game for the Gophers, collecting his first win, and in his first time starting at 3M Arena at Mariucci.
“[The win] means a lot,” Robson said Saturday. “I unfortunately had to wait a couple of extra weeks to get that first win, but now that it’s out of the way, we can just keep moving forward.”
The Gophers helped Robson to his first win in the 4-1 victory Saturday, with plenty of even-strength goals.
Captain Tyler Sheehy got on the scoreboard first on both Friday and Saturday, and he was on a new line with forwards Rem Pitlick and Tommy Novak this weekend. Sheehy had five goals coming into the second half, but found a way to add two this weekend.
“When you’re an offensive player and you’re not scoring, you press, you squeeze the stick a little tighter,” Lucia said Saturday. “When you do score, it is a lot more relaxing, ad you just feel better about yourself.”
In addition to Sheehy getting back on the scoresheet, defenseman Sam Rossini, and forwards Mike Szmatula and Tyler Nanne added goals on Saturday.
The game Friday saw many changes to the Gophers’ contingent on the ice after the finals/Christmas break. Minnesota saw the addition of a new defender, Clayton Phillips, debut, and the season debut for forward Luke Notermann, who missed the first half recovering from surgery.
It also marked the first game of the season with both forward Casey Mittelstadt and defenseman Ryan Lindgren absent from the team for their participation at the World Junior’s Championship for Team USA.
The Gophers would not let Mittelstadt’s absence deter the offense, with Minnesota opening the scoring and an eventual 3-0 shutout over the Black Knights.
“The message today was work harder than they do,” Sheehy said Friday. “It was a little bit of a disappointing first half for us, so we wanted to come out with a good jump.”
The “good jump” started with Sheehy’s goal, then two goals to cushion the lead from defenseman Jack Sadek and forward Leon Bristedt in the third period.
Combined through the weekend, Minnesota allowed 39 shots through both games, while the Gophers’ offense recorded 65 shots in both games.
Minnesota had no goals and 14 shots on nine power play opportunities through the whole weekend, and are now ranked at 53 out of 60 college hockey teams in the nation.
“Our goaltending was good, out penalty killing was good,” Lucia said Saturday. “We just have to continue to grow. We’ve got to get to three or four a night, and if we do that, I think we can make another step as a team.”