MINNEAPOLIS — One night after crushing visiting Alabama-Huntsville, Minnesota got a different look Saturday at Mariucci Arena. The Chargers started slowly again, but recovered to put a scare into the defending national champions, who scored two goals in the third to get the win by a score of 4-2.
Nick Anthony scored the game-winner, his first goal of the season, early in the third after the teams had played to a surprising deadlock after 40 minutes. Though the Gophers again owned the shot chart — finishing with 50-plus again — a good part of the game was to the liking of the Chargers, who seemed to gain strength as the contest progressed.
“We had a lot of shots again, but give them credit,” said Anthony. “It just goes to show that you can’t take anyone for granted.”
“The guys responded and they gave us an honest game,” said UAH coach Doug Ross. “We had our hearts in it.”
A rough third period Friday and didn’t keep UAH goaltender Scott Munroe from putting forth a standout effort. Munroe stopped 52 of 56 Gopher shots, holding the Chargers close all evening.
“I think [the Chargers] showed a lot by how they played,” said Minnesota head coach Don Lucia. “Their goaltender was outstanding.”
At the other end, Minnesota sophomore Justin Johnson was good enough to win, making 18 saves despite some troubles, including a misplay that led to Huntsville’s second goal.
“It was a tough game for Justin,” Lucia said. “The good thing is, he didn’t get beat on a shot.”
Hopes the Chargers (0-6-0) might have had to erase memories of Friday’s shellacking seemed to be dashed right off the opening faceoff. Penetrating the zone on the right side, Gopher defenseman Chris Harrington ripped a shot from the high slot past Munroe. The score, Harrington’s first as a collegian, came just 12 seconds into the contest.
But the Gophers (4-1-2) did not score again for over 35 minutes, though as in the series opener, the opening minutes were all Minnesota. UAH killed three man-advantages midway through the first, and the first Charger shot on goal came nearly 13 minutes in.
UAH winger Craig Bushey had the Chargers’ best opportunity to tie the score with a wide-open stuff attempt at the 19-minute mark, but Johnson blocked it down. Shots after one favored Minnesota, 24-5.
The Gophers’ inability to finish continued in the middle frame, with Munroe denying Jarrid Reinholz on a backhanded stuff around the six-minute mark. Matt Koalska fared no better as Munroe knocked down his swat at a loose puck in the crease, and moments later Dan Welch nearly beheaded the netminder on a drive to the net, but the freshman from Moose Jam, Sask., stood fast.
A hooking call against Alabama-Huntsville’s Doug Watkins appeared to produce Minnesota’s second goal, by Anthony on a scramble in front 12 minutes in. After a conference by the officials, the score was waved off for a high stick — though Anthony acknowledged that the puck actually went in off his head.
As the second period continued, the Chargers’ tenacity increased, along with their physical play. The effort paid off at 15:56 with the tying goal. With traffic in front and Johnson on his knees, blueliner Ryan Brown drove the net and squeeze a loose puck into the left side of the net. The score was the first for the sophomore, playing in just his sixth career game.
Minnesota struck back immediately. With Bushey off for interference, Troy Riddle collected the rebound of Ballard’s shot and hammered it past Munroe, who had no chance to get over on the shot. Riddle’s ninth goal of the year came at 18:05 and gave the Gophers a 2-1 lead.
That advantage, too, was brief. After a takeaway by Karlis Zirnis in the Gophers’ defensive zone, Johnson came out of net to play the loose puck. He failed to control it, however, and Jared Ross swept in and poked the puck under a diving Johnson to tie the game again at 19:18.
Bad blood surfaced then, as Herrington and UAH’s Gerald Overton got into a shoving match which resulted in unsportsmanlike-conduct penalties for both. After a lengthy effort to separate the combatants, the officials attempted to stuff both players into the wrong penalty boxes before changing their minds and sending them off the ice entirely. Both players received 10-minute misconducts in addition to the minor penalties.
Shots on goal in the second favored Minnesota 17-8, but only five of the Gophers’ shots came after the midpoint of the period. But a little luck turned the Gophers’ way early in the third.
Still skating four-on-four, Thomas Vanek got spun around in front, leaving the puck free at the bottom of the left circle for Anthony. His hard-angle shot got through bodies and then past Munroe, who was screened on the play, to make it 3-2 Minnesota.
“It’s just good to get the monkey off my back,” said Anthony of his first goal of the year.
The Gophers took a little more wind out of the Chargers’ sails at 5:45. Minnesota’s Joey Martin, playing just his second game since a frightening concussion last year, drove to the right corner before centering the puck for Matt DeMarchi, whose slapshot beat Munroe cleanly.
“We got in position to maybe win it, but we got down too early in the third,” said Ross.
It was then UAH’s turn to have a goal waved off. With P.J. Atherton in the box, the Chargers worked the puck around the zone before getting it in front, where Steve Charlebois whacked it in with a high stick. This time the call was immediate, leaving Minnesota’s 4-2 edge intact.
Joel Bresciani had a chance to narrow the lead with four minutes to go, stealing the puck just outside the blue line and going in alone on Johnson. But the sophomore netminder followed Bresciani’s deke and chested the shot down safely, ending the threat.
Next week, Minnesota visits Minnesota State, while UAH takes the weekend off in preparation for its CHA opener.