MINNEAPOLIS — In a rematch of the 1994 Mariucci Classic championship game, the host Minnesota Golden Gophers came out victorious with their first-ever defeat of Lake Superior State, 5-4. It marked the fifth Mariucci Classic title for the Gophers, all five coming against CCHA competition.
Pat O’Leary’s second goal of the night, midway through the third period and just over a minute after the Lakers had tied it, was the game-winner.
Lake Superior was down a goal entering the third period, but quickly tied it 3-3 on Kyle Anderson’s first career goal. Anderson was battling with a pair of Gophers on the right sidewall when he squirted free, drove along the goal line and wrapped the puck around Minnesota goalie Adam Hauser at 4:32 of the period.
The Gophers came right back, though, as Erik Westrum scored his third goal of the weekend at 7:31. LSSU goalie Jayme Platt handed the rebound of John Pohl’s shot to Erik Westrum, who skated across the front of the crease and beat Platt on the glove side.
A little over two minutes later, Lake Superior again tied the game on a power-play goal by Bart Redden. But O’Leary broke the Lakers’ hearts with a tip-in goal.
The biggest story of the night was the help the Gophers received from players who don’t see much ice time in the regular season.
“It was huge to have some of the lesser-known players scoring goals,” said Westrum.
Said O’Leary, “It feels good to be able to contribute by scoring points rather than just getting it done with forechecking.”
Westrum claimed the tournament’s most valuable player honor. Joining him on the all-tourney team were Pohl and Jordan Leopold; Lake Superior State centerman Mike Vigilante and defenseman Ryan Knox were also named to the all-tournament team.
The Lakers looked like the sharper of the two teams in the first period. The Gophers had several turnovers in their own zone and the Lakers were able to take advantage of Minnesota’s miscues. On the Lakers’ first power play of the evening, Chris McNamara found senior defenseman Matt Frick wide open in front of the Gopher goal, and Frick hit the back of the net to put his team on top 1-0.
“We were our own worst enemy in the first period by throwing the puck to them in our zone and giving them shots,” said Minnesota coach Don Lucia.
The Laker dominance continued well into the second period when the Gophers failed to convert on a power play. Lake State, feeding off of their strong special teams play, pocketed its second goal of the night at 7:54. Senior captian Ryan Knox fired a hard slap shot from the top of the right faceoff circle that was deflected by a Minnesota defender and fluttered past Hauser.
The Gophers finally started to perk up when Pohl netted his ninth goal of the season at 10:42 on the power play. Leopold sent a shot into traffic in front of the net. The puck jumped up to Pohl who gloved it to the ice then sent it behind Platt to cut the Laker lead to one.
Just under four minutes later, the Gophers took advantage of another power play opportunity. Matt Koalska sent a centering pass in the direction of Aaron Miskovich who was lingering just outside of the crease. Miskovich fanned on the tip attempt, but O’Leary was waiting eagerly behind Miskovich to pick up his second goal of the season. Nick Angell finished off the second period scoring with a hard slap shot from the point to give the Gophers their first lead of the night at 16:38.
Minnesota heads to Alaska next weekend to take on UAA in WCHA action, while Lake Superior State heads to Michigan in a CCHA matchup.