ST CLOUD, Minn. — You knew going in that this one was going to have a bit of everything.
After escaping Minneapolis with a 3-2 win Friday night, the St. Cloud State Huskies took their turn playing host, as the top two teams in the nation collided for a second consecutive night.
A sellout crowd of 6,685 witnessed the second-ranked Huskies take a 2-0 lead into the dressing room after two periods, only to see it vanish in the third as the Gophers and Huskies skated to a wildly entertaining 2-2 tie Saturday night at the National Hockey Center.
The game seemed to be over twice, however, first when Husky forward Matt Hendricks scored the apparent game-winner with three minutes left in regulation, and later in overtime when Gopher freshman Jake Fleming kicked home a goal that was disallowed.
On Hendricks’ effort, the horn sounded and the crowd roared, but the light never went on and referee Robin Anderson never signaled anything as play moved on.
“I don’t know if it went in,” said Hendricks. “You tip home so many goals like that and you think you know what it looks like but I guess I was wrong.”
Later, in the overtime period, the Gophers thought they had the game won. Minnesota forward Barry Tallackson made a great play to get to the net and made a pass to Fleming, who redirected the puck into the net with his skate. This time the light did go on, but Anderson was there immediately to wave it off.
“I tried to get the puck to my stick with my skate,” said Fleming, a freshman who was skating on the Gophers top line with John Pohl and Tallackson. “My stick was tied up though and I couldn’t get it free, and the puck ended up in the net, it was unfortunate.”
The teams had gotten to the overtime by playing a very aggressive, up-and-down game of hockey.
After a scoreless first period that saw both teams have numerous scoring opportunities, St. Cloud State decided to open it up a little bit. Like the night before, the Huskies took over in the second period, scoring two goals in the final 1:42 and outshooting the Gophers 19-10 in that frame.
Nate DiCasmirro broke the deadlock with a wicked wrister that beat a surprised Adam Hauser, and Jon Cullen knocked home a loose puck on the power play to put the Huskies up by two.
“We knew after the second period that if we didn’t come back it was our season,” said Minnesota forward Grant Potulny. “We knew if we were going to stay in the conference race we couldn’t put ourselves in a position where we had to go to Denver next weekend and need a sweep.
“This point tonight was huge for us.”
Minnesota came out of the gates and played as if its season was on the line in the final period. Tallackson knocked home a rebound off of Judd Stevens’ shot 1:42 in, and Potulny tied it when he tipped home Jordan Leopold’s shot at the 9:58 mark on the power play.
“Last night we had the bounces go our way and tonight in the third period I thought they had the bounces go their way,” said St. Cloud State head coach Craig Dahl. “It was excellent hockey, though. Two teams battling and both playing really well — it was really fun to watch.”
The Huskies threw 47 shots on Hauser, but the senior netminder turned away 45 in one of the strongest games of his career.
“This is the best game I have ever seen (Hauser) play,” said Potulny. “We know going out every night he’s going to give us a chance to win but tonight he might have stolen that [tie] for us.”
Jake Moreland started the game in net for St. Cloud but was spelled by Weasler at the start of the second after he suffered a possible concussion when a Gopher played collided with him late in the first. He stayed in for the final few minutes of the period but didn’t look like he was all there.
“A skate hit my head pretty hard and after that I could hardly see straight,” said Moreland. “I thought I could stay in, but Coach said we should go with [Weasler].
The teams will likely flip-flop in the polls as both prepare for tough challenges next weekend in Colorado. The Gophers take on third-ranked Denver while the Huskies travel to Colorado Springs for a rematch with Colorado College, the only team to beat them this season.
“There was a lot of emotion shown by both sides this weekend,” said Hendricks. “We took three of four points from the top team in the country, though, and we feel good about that, but there was some good hockey played.
“I wouldn’t mind playing them every weekend.”