MINNEAPOLIS — The nation’s second-ranked team, Minnesota, wasted no time in taking control of the championship game of the Mariucci Classic, scoring three goals in the first period and coasting to a 6-1 win.
“We said in the locker room we wanted to score more … When was the last time we scored four goals?” said tournament MVP Johnny Pohl.
November 25, in a 4-4 tie against Michigan State, was the answer. That for a team that started the season scoring at least seven goals in each of its first six games.
“Coach [Don Lucia] and I had a special session this morning. He told me I had to be more selfish and shoot more. It felt good to get some goals,” continued Pohl, known for his pass-first playmaker’s mentality.
The scoring started when freshman winger Barry Tallackson tapped in a rebound at the 1:00. Pohl led an off-balance rush up the right wing, taking a shot from the top of the circle. Providence goaltender Nolan Schaefer made the pad save but left the first of many big rebounds in front of the net for the prowling Tallackson.
Minnesota took a 2-0 lead at 8:47 on a low-angle shot from Erik Wendell. The puck appeared to elude Schaefer’s attempt to guard the post and found the far corner.
The Gophers’ Jeff Taffe scored a power-play goal at 16:42 to round out the period. Taffe wound up and took a big slapper only to find the puck had rebounded right back for a second attempt. This time his shot found the back of the net.
It was a tough first period for the Friars, who were forced to block more Gopher shots in the opening stanza (10) than they landed on net themselves (six).
The Friars rebounded in the second to generate several quality chances on freshman netminder Travis Weber, outshooting Minnesota 16-14 for the period.
“I thought we played well in the second period. I see some of our young defenseman gaining confidence,” said Providence coach Paul Pooley.
At 13:55 Marc Suderman tallied Providence’s only goal of the game, the senior’s first of the year. David Carpentier set up the goal with a pass from the side of the net. Suderman one-timed a shot past Weber.
Pohl responded a minute later. Seconds after coming off the bench, Wendell found him on the weak side for the easy tap-in.
That was the goal that broke the Friars’ backs. It was also Pohl’s 11th point in Classic history, making him the tournament’s career point leader.
“I was disappointed in my team giving up the fourth goal. We had just scored making it 3-1. We are a young team and need to learn how to avoid giving up quick goals like this after we score,” said Pooley.
The key to the Friars’ second-period success was staying out of the penalty box. They lost their composure in the third, taking a number of meaningless minor penalties. Providence took only three shots for the period.
Meanwhile, Minnesota added two goals, from Pohl and freshman Judd Stevens. Pohl’s was scored on the power play, while Stevens’ was the first of his career.
“I was pleased with our guys … We played hard to the end,” said Lucia. “We played with more continuity [and] we went through our entire nonconference schedule without losing a game. At the beginning of the season I didn’t think we could do that.”
The all-tournament team included forwards Dana Lattery of Western Michigan, Taffe and MVP Pohl; defensemen Regan Kelly of PC and Minnesota’s Paul Martin; and goalie Weber.