Final seconds last too long for U

Tim Nichols

In a mere 30 seconds on Saturday, the Gophers men’s hockey team went from elation to devastation.
A spirited third-period comeback appeared to give Minnesota a much-needed shot of momentum and a shot at a series sweep. That is, until St. Cloud State stole that momentum back and escaped with a 6-5 victory.
The Gophers appeared to have forced overtime when Nate Miller tied the game with 46 seconds remaining. But Jason Goulet pounced on a Minnesota turnover at center ice and stole back the lead for good with a scant 16 seconds left to play.
“It was 5-3, then 5-5 when we tied it,” Miller said. “So it (our emotional level) was pretty high. Then it was just a swing. It was a real high-low. They got it and it’s real disappointing.”
The final goal ended what had been one of the strangest series in recent memory. Only it didn’t end the way Minnesota would have hoped.
“We had a couple good chances in the last two minutes,” coach Doug Woog said. “We were pretty excited about the effort. Then 30 seconds later, it’s all kind of meaningless. That’s the way it goes.”
In a game typified by Gophers turnovers and injuries — Dave Spehar suffered a deep thigh bruise and Rico Pagel left with a knee injury in the first period — Minnesota couldn’t sustain an attack the way it did Friday, when the Gophers shut out the Huskies 3-0.
“I thought in the first period we had basically good control of it, but we went down 2-0,” Woog said. “We were better in the shots, we played very aggressively. But in the second period, we turned the puck over. The turnovers were huge out there.”
St. Cloud State took a 4-2 lead into the third period. But Minnesota was able to capitalize on a Huskies mistake six minutes into the period, when Reggie Berg picked off a pass in the neutral zone and beat goaltender Dean Weasler for a shorthanded goal.
“I just went down like I was going down the ice in practice,” Berg said. “I just went in and beat the goalie.”
Berg’s goal brought the Gophers to within one, and several more scoring opportunities soon followed. But it wasn’t until the closing minutes of the game that Minnesota’s swarming attack finally paid off with Miller’s game-tying goal.
Unfortunately, the effort was all for naught.
Miller said playing in the arena dubbed the “Nuthouse” by St. Cloud coach Craig Dahl might have rattled the Gophers in their first road game of the season.
“This is one of the greatest home-ice advantages in college hockey,” Miller said. “They are definitely a better team up here than anywhere else, no doubt about it.
“We knew it was going to be a battle coming up here — it’s Homecoming here and all — but I thought we did a good job in the first period of taking them out of it. But once again, we fell asleep.”
A battered, bruised and humbled Gophers squad will have a week to recover before they go back on the road to visit Wisconsin in its new home, the Kohl Center.
And they’ll have plenty to work on between now and then.
“I thought the first period we played fine,” Woog said. “We just weren’t able to carry that consistently throughout the game.”

SCORING SUMMARIES

SATURDAY
St. Cloud State 2 2 2 — 6
Gophers 2 0 3 — 5

FIRST PERIOD: SCSU — Larson (Brooks, Ruckinski), 9:24. SCSU — Gaffaney (Pudlick, Goulet), 13:41. Minn — Smith 5 (Spehar 3, Leopold 5), PPG, 15:38. Minn — Spehar 3 (Mills 2, Westrum 2), PPG, 19:40.

SECOND PERIOD: SCSU — Pudlick (Goulet, Awada), PPG, 7:21. SCSU — Sampair (Torsson, Anderson), 12:41.

THIRD PERIOD: Minn — N. Miller 2 (Leopold 6, Angell 2), PPG, 1:49. SCSU — Pudlick 2 (Rucinski 2), 3:12. Minn — Berg 3 (unassisted), SHG, 6:32. Minn — N. Miller 3 (Kohn 2), 19:14. SCSU — Goulet 1 (Awada 2, Arnason 1), 19:44.

FRIDAY
St. Cloud State 0 0 0 — 0
Gophers 1 1 1 — 3

FIRST PERIOD: Minn — Smith 4 (Leopold 4, Spehar 2), PPG, 2:06.

SECOND PERIOD: Minn — Anderson 1 (unassisted), 4:29.

THIRD PERIOD: Minn — Wendell 1 (unassisted), 8:59.