Prolific Friday, offense paltry on Saturday

Gophers defender Cade Fairchild fights for the puck against Anchorage forward Matt Bailey on Saturday at Mariucci Arena. The Gophers lost to Anchorage by one point.

Anthony Kwan

Gophers defender Cade Fairchild fights for the puck against Anchorage forward Matt Bailey on Saturday at Mariucci Arena. The Gophers lost to Anchorage by one point.

John Hageman

Everything seemed to come easy for Minnesota Friday night.

The Gophers pelted Alaska Anchorage goalie Rob Gunderson with 48 shots âÄî two shy of a season-high âÄî and poured in five goals on rush opportunities while stifling the SeawolvesâÄô typically unproductive offense for a 5-1 win.

Two weeks after tallying a season-low 22 shots on net in a 4-1 loss to North Dakota, the Gophers finally broke through for rare blowout.

Then came Saturday.

In a Jekyll and Hyde-like transformation, the GophersâÄô (11-10-3, 8-8-2) couldnâÄôt find the back of the net Saturday night and fell 1-0 to Alaska Anchorage (8-13-3, 7-11-2) at Mariucci Arena, settling for a split.

The offensive explosion Friday was a relief to a Minnesota team that has struggled of late to produce any offense. It was the first time since mid-November that the Gophers scored more than three goals.

With 30 shots on net Saturday, the Gophers had plenty of opportunities for goals Saturday as well.

But after getting burned by the rush Friday, the Seawolves adjusted accordingly, keeping four men back for much of the night. The Gophers struggled to adapt, tallying a meager five shots on goal in the first period while turning the puck over numerous times on errant passes.

Without the luxury of being able to rush the net at will, the Gophers couldnâÄôt find a way to crack Alaska AnchorageâÄôs defense.

âÄúIt was going to be a grinding-type game, it was just the way they were going to play,âÄù Minnesota head coach Don Lucia said.

The Gophers bounced back, getting 16 shots to the net in the second, but Seawolves freshman Chris Kamal, who replaced Gunderson in net, weathered the storm. Gunderson had started 11 straight games, and Seawolves head coach Dave Shyiak decided to give him a break.

Kamal had played in just five games this season, compiling a 4.13 goals-against average and .831 save percentage.

âÄú[The Gophers] didnâÄôt really have a lot of clean looks at the net, and when they did, Kamal came up big,âÄù Shyiak said.

Freshman Matt Bailey scored the only goal of the night for the Seawolves, sending the puck from the left circle over Minnesota goaltender Kent PattersonâÄòs right shoulder early in the third period.

The Gophers had plenty of rebound opportunities and tips in the frantic final minutes, but they couldnâÄôt salvage a tie.

The offensive production Friday came from several unlikely sources. The fourth line combined for three points, and defenseman Aaron Ness scored his first goal of the year.

âÄúItâÄôs nice when you chip in offensively,âÄù said fourth-liner Nick Larson, who added the GophersâÄô third goal early in the second period. He contributed an assist on Tom SerratoreâÄôs second goal of the season earlier in the game.

Freshman Nate Condon, who recorded five points against Colorado College earlier this season, had been dormant for some time. But his goal early Friday night paved the way for the GophersâÄô onslaught.

âÄúItâÄôs kind of like getting the monkey off your back,âÄù Condon said.

While the Gophers welcome the contributions from all corners of their line chart, their first line failed to tally a point all weekend.

âÄúItâÄôs on me, itâÄôs on the first line,âÄù Jay Barriball said. âÄúTo go scoreless in two big games against [Alaska] Anchorage is pretty bad for the first line.âÄù

Although the Gophers failed to complete the sweep, they kept pace with Colorado College, who lost 6-0 to North Dakota Saturday, for the sixth seed in the conference. Both teams currently sit with 18 points, 4 behind Nebraska-Omaha.

Minnesota will travel to No. 5 Minnesota-Duluth next weekend for a rematch of their late-December series in which the Gophers took three points.