MINNEAPOLIS — Friday night at Mariucci Arena, netminder Brandon Snee stopped 45 shots for Union. Minnesota’s Adam Hauser saved just 13.
But despite the shot-chart dominance, the host Gophers won by only one goal, taking a hard-fought 3-2 victory in the first round of the Mariucci Classic. The Gophers now take on Lake Superior for the tournament championship Saturday.
Despite missing the contributions of Jeff Taffe, Troy Riddle, and Paul Martin — all playing for the U.S. team at the World Junior Championships — the Gophers came out of the gates with fresh legs and their typical gritty style of play.
They outshot the Skating Dutchmen 18-4 in each of the first two periods, but were unable to capitalize until the second as Snee made spectacular saves and had a little help from the left pipe to keep the Gophers off the scoreboard in the first period.
Union, which didn’t get a shot on net until 14 minutes into the game, lit the lamp on a power-play goal at 17:59 when Randy Dagenais was able to get the puck to Charles Simard at the top of the left faceoff circle. Simard had an open lane and put the puck into the back of the net, giving the Dutchmen a 1-0 lead at the end of the first.
The Gophers finally scored 2:20 into the second on a power-play goal by Grant Potulny. Minnesota was cycling the puck when Jordan Leopold took a pass from Dylan Mills at the right point and fired a shot toward the net, where Potulny was able to hit the five-hole on the deflection.
Next, Minnesota’s Nick Angell tried to pull a fast one on the officiating crew when he grabbed a deflected shot out of the air and threw it over Snee’s left shoulder midway through the period. The goal was quickly disallowed, but the Gophers persisted and notched their second goal three minutes later to take a 2-1 lead.
Potulny and Mills assisted on Eric Westrum’s 12th of the year, giving them their second points of the night, and Westrum scored again at 18:26 to put the Gophers ahead 3-1. Leopold joined the two-point club with the lone assist on Westrum’s second goal.
Said Westrum, “I was trying to go low on [Snee] all night and was finally able to beat him.”
Play started to get a little chippy after Westrum’s second goal. Three Dutchmen were sent off along with two Gophers for a variety of penalties, as John Pohl from Minnesota and Kris Goodjohn of Union were each assessed double minors for roughing and 10-minute misconducts. The teams combined for 50 penalty minutes in the second period alone.
In the third, Bryan Yackel caught Hauser snoozing 1:02 in when he skated in and shoved the puck between Hauser’s legs to cut the lead to one. Jeff Hutchins had a chance to tie it at 16:15 on a breakaway, but Hauser stonewalled him to maintain the one-goal advantage.
Union came with a flurry of shots in the remaining three minutes, but were unable to get the tying goal. The Dutchmen will face Bemidji State Saturday in the consolation game.