HOUGHTON, Mich. — In a game that often resembled a winter afternoon of wide-open pond hockey, Minnesota showed exactly why it’s the nation’s top-ranked team.
Down 3-1 in the second period, the Golden Gophers erupted for five goals in a span of less than six minutes on their way to a 7-3 win over Michigan Tech before a crowd of 2,555 at MacInnes Arena on Friday night.
“It took us a bit of adjustment to getting back to the small rink,” said Minnesota coach Don Lucia, whose team had played its previous four games at home on its wide, Olympic-sized ice sheet. “You’ve gotta win one-on-one battles and I don’t think we did that in the first period. We picked up our game after the first period.”
“You can’t take any time off against a team like that,” said Michigan Tech head coach Mike Sertich of his team’s second-period lapse. “[Minnesota] knows how to win and we’re learning how to win. They gave us a pretty expensive lesson [on] how 60 minutes of puck-control hockey works.”
Jeff Taffe scored twice and added an assist for Minnesota (6-0-0, 1-0-0 WCHA). John Pohl, Troy Riddle, and Nick Anthony each had a goal and an assist.
Jon Pittis, Ryan Lenton, and Rob Rankin scored for Michigan Tech (2-3-0, 0-3-0). Brett Engelhardt added a pair of assists.
Pittis gave the Huskies a 1-0 lead 6:02 into the game. After Pittis and Colin Murphy worked to force a turnover in the Minnesota zone, Engelhardt sent a pass from the boards to the front of the net, where Pittis slipped the puck through the legs of Gophers’ goaltender Adam Hauser.
The Gophers tied the game at the 11:17 mark when Riddle’s shot from the left circle went over Tech goaltender Brian Rogers’ shoulder and found the top right corner of the net.
The Huskies regained the lead on Lenton’s first collegiate goal at 14:23. The sophomore defenseman alertly followed the play to the net and slid a loose puck into the net after Hauser failed to control the rebound from a Murphy shot.
Tech took a 3-1 lead on Rankin’s first collegiate goal 6:46 into the second period. Frank Werner’s shot from the left side of the net trickled through Hauser’s pads and sat on the goal line, where Rankin poked it across.
But after that, the floodgates opened.
Pohl, one of 12 Minnesota players drafted by an NHL team, got credit for a goal when his centering pass from the side of the net along the goal line went off the skate of Tech defenseman Tom Kaiman and past a surprised Rogers at 8:03.
“That lucky goal goes off [Kaiman's] skate and it seemed to change the whole momentum,”said Lucia.
The Gophers needed just eight seconds after Greg Amadio went off for holding to make it a 3-3 tie. Pohl controlled the puck after a faceoff and sent it to defenseman Paul Martin, who beat Rogers from between the circles at 9:10.
Taffe gave the Gophers a 4-3 lead when he scored from the low slot at 10:26. Just nine seconds after Nick Anthony had given Minnesota a two-goal lead, Erik Wendell raced in and beat Rogers to make it 6-3.
Taffe scored with 37 seconds left in the third period to finish the scoring.
“We need to play a complete game tomorrow,” said Lucia. “It’s an adjustment getting back to WCHA play against a better and stronger opponent.”
Said Sertich: “In the third period, I think it’s more of taking a little step to get back on the bike after you get tossed. We could have easily rolled up the tent and went away, but I thought we competed fairly hard. A couple guys took some costly penalties and learned a costly lesson again. But I’ll be patient and they’ll get another chance, and if they continue to do that they’ll be out of the lineup.”
Saturday night’s rematch will begin at 8:05 ET. The game will feature two of the nation’s promising freshman goaltenders in Minnesota’s Travis Weber and Tech’s Cam Ellsworth.