MINNEAPOLIS — After Friday’s shootout at Mariucci Arena, both coaches predicted a slower, lower-scoring game in Saturday’s rematch
They were right — sort of.
Saturday, Minnesota and Colorado College combined for 53 shots and 10 goals, down from 78 and 11 the previous night. This time Minnesota, despite looking flat-footed at times, pulled away late to take a 7-3 victory, splitting the weekend series and moving back into third place in the WCHA.
“We found a way to win,” said Minnesota head coach Don Lucia. “We didn’t have any energy … It’s tough to keep digging and digging and digging.”
Troy Riddle netted the game winner in the opening minute of the third period — part of a three-goal string that put the Gophers in command — and added two assists, bringing his weekend total to seven points.
“It was a great time for him to have a great game,” said Lucia.
The scoring arrived in bursts, with a total of eight goals coming in two short stretches in the second and third periods. Minnesota, in particular, turned it on and off, getting goals in bunches or not at all.
“They’re a much more streaky team than I thought,” said Colorado College head coach Scott Owens.
“We can be so good sometimes, and then so bad,” concurred John Pohl, who notched three assists.
“I’m really frustrated by that fact,” said Lucia, “that we’ve played so much in spurts … It’s the same thing we [the coaches] have been harping on since October.”
The opening minutes saw good puck movement, though shots on goal were few for Minnesota. As on Friday, CC got on the board first.
Skating four-on-four, Minnesota (22-7-4, 14-7-3 WCHA) started to cycle as if on a power play, but Jesse Heerema picked defenseman Keith Ballard’s pocket and broke out two-on-one. Colin Stuart took Heerema’s pass above the circles and beat Adam Hauser cleanly with a slapshot to make it 1-0.
“After Colin Stuart blasted it past my ears, maybe,” said Hauser about having second thoughts on playing through a sprained ankle. “But I think that was a little bit of a wakeup call.”
Nonetheless, CC (20-9-3, 14-8-2 WCHA) cornered the market on offense in the succeeding minutes, keeping the puck in the Minnesota zone for long stretches, leading to an 8-2 shot advantage after 15 minutes.
Jeff Sanger (18 saves) came up big on Minnesota’s first power play late in the period, stopping point-blank shots by Grant Potulny and Pohl to keep the Tigers on top after one.
The lights came on in a whirlwind of a second period, which included five goals in eight minutes midway through. It played in two acts, as Minnesota and Colorado College took turns controlling the offensive flow.
The Gophers started the flurry. Centerman Matt Koalska joined a two-on-two, and his drop pass gave blueliner Paul Martin an open shot from the high slot. Martin’s low hummer skipped inside the right post for his seventh goal of the year at 5:52.
Barely a minute later, the Gophers took the lead on Nick Anthony’s third goal of the weekend. Matt DeMarchi, better known for hitting than scoring, put a move on a defender and shot from 30 feet. Sanger blocked the shot down, and Anthony was there to stuff home the loose puck. The assist was DeMarchi’s fourth point of the series.
After killing a CC power play, Minnesota got its third goal at 10:34. Parked at the blue line along the right boards, Nick Angell intercepted the puck and let go a harmless-looking shot. The puck somehow found its way through traffic and under Sanger to make it 3-1.
Moments later, with a loose puck bouncing through the neutral zone, Ballard came up for an ill-advised swat at it and fanned, allowing CC’s Noah Clarke a breakaway. Untouched, Clarke shoveled the puck into the left side of the net for his 10th goal of the year at 11:36.
Two minutes after that, the Tigers fired up the transition game. After stopping a Minnesota rush, defenseman Richard Petiot hit Trent Clark streaking up the middle, and Alex Kim cleaned up the rebound of Clarke’s shot to make it three-all.
“After the second period we talked about it being all about being mentally tough, being mentally strong,” said Lucia. Minnesota took those words to heart, scoring three goals in five-plus minutes to take control for good.
In the opening seconds, Pohl’s slapshot from the top of the right circle was blocked aside, but the Tiger defenders overskated the puck, leaving Riddle open. Sanger stopped his first attempt, but Riddle leaned out and swept the puck into the far side at the 17-second mark.
“We were disorganized at times,” said Owens of CC’s defensive effort, which did not include Andrew Canzanello, who hurt his shoulder Friday. “But it wasn’t our freshman defensemen. Frankly, it was our upperclassmen.”
Pohl’s playmaking added to the lead at 1:30. Riddle moved the puck behind the CC net and Pohl slipped his defender for a moment, then hit Leopold with a centering pass for a one-timer inside the left post to give the Gophers a 5-3 lead.
The All-American’s goal was his 17th to lead all WCHA defensemen in that category, and tied him for third on Minnesota’s all-time defenseman scoring list with 133 career points.
At 5:20, Potulny scored with the inadvertent assistance of CC defenseman Tom Preissing. Getting the puck from Pohl, Potulny fired a wrister from the right circle that hit Preissing, then bounced past Sanger to make the score 6-3.
Preissing tried to counteract that misfortune at the seven-minute mark, corralling a bouncing puck in front for a point-blank backhander. But Hauser stuck out a pad for the save to keep the momentum.
“You need that from your seniors,” said Lucia of Hauser’s workmanlike 25-save performance. “He wasn’t 100 percent, but he gave a good effort.”
Erik Wendell rounded out the scoring, netting his seventh of the year off a cross-crease pass from Riddle.
With his appearance, Hauser tied Graham Melanson’s WCHA record for career games by a goaltender with 140; with the win, he tied Hobey Baker winner Robb Stauber’s school record for wins with 73.
“It’s not something I really pay attention to, but it’s a nice feeling,” said Hauser.
Minnesota next hosts Wisconsin Friday and Saturday, while CC visits Alaska-Anchorage for a pair.