Second-period explosion propels Gophers to 1-0 series lead

Minnesota defeated Alaska-Anchorage 2-1 in the opener of the teams’ WCHA Championship series.

Minnesota forward Erik Haula handles the puck during Saturday night’s game against Wisconsin at Mariucci Arena.  Haula scored a shorthanded goal early in the third period to tie the game.

Satchell Mische-Richter

Minnesota forward Erik Haula handles the puck during Saturday night’s game against Wisconsin at Mariucci Arena. Haula scored a shorthanded goal early in the third period to tie the game.

by Dane Mizutani

Minnesota avenged its pair of losses from last year’s opening round of the WCHA playoffs with a 2-1 victory over Alaska-Anchorage on Friday.  

The Gophers looked like the same team that made a habit of losing in the opening game of a weekend series — at least for the first 20 minutes Friday. 

Minnesota took three ill-timed penalties in the first period and was unable to establish any sort of rhythm early in the game.

In the second period, however, the Gophers’ offense exploded.

Erik Haula broke the tie early in the frame with a wrist shot from the left of the crease.

Haula beat goaltender Chris Kamal on the play to make it 1-0, but went crashing into the boards following the goal.

He looked a little shaken up coming of the ice, but did not miss a shift — or a beat.

Haula scored his second goal of the period after Nate Schmidt hit the post on a shot from inside the blue line. Haula collected the puck as it floated outside of the crease and tickled the twine to stretch the lead to 2-0.

Minnesota outshot Anchorage 16-4 in the period and peppered Kamal constantly, but it could not add to the lead.

Kamal gave up five goals in the first meeting in October and handed out rebound shots like it was his job Friday.

Despite being sternly outshot and outworked in the period, the Seawolves scored in the closing seconds to make it 2-1.

Brad Gorham lit the lamp with two seconds left in the frame and kept the deficit attainable headed into the third period.

The Gophers reverted back to their sloppy play from the first period in the third period and left the door open for a comeback. They held Anchorage to five shots in the period but could not manage an insurance goal.

The Seawolves pulled Kamal with less than a minute to play for an extra attacker, but they could not net the equalizer.

Minnesota will host Anchorage again Saturday with a chance to close out the best-of-three opening round series of the WCHA playoffs.

Should the Gophers win, they will reach their first Final Five since 2009.