MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota’s Jake Fleming scored the winning goal on a redirection 3:14 into the second period as Minnesota held off feisty Michigan Tech, 4-2, Friday night at Mariucci Arena.
The ninth-ranked Gophers dominated the early going, but Michigan Tech rallied to tie early in the second before Fleming put the hosts back ahead for good. Minnesota netminder Travis Weber (32 saves) put in a solid performance, including several quality stops in the third to keep the Gophers on top. The Huskies outshot the Gophers 34-32 for the contest.
Minnesota (6-3-3, 3-2-2 WCHA) took charge of matters in the opening minutes. A two-on-one for Jerrid Reinholz and Nick Anthony got the Gophers their second power play when Matt Gibbons hauled down Anthony in front.
On the man-advantage, junior Matt Koalska was operating behind the net when two Tech defenders collapsed on freshman Thomas Vanek. That left Koalska a lane to the front, which he exploited to whip the puck five-hole past Husky netminder Cam Ellsworth (28 saves) at 8:14. Troy Riddle picked up the first assist, extending his point-scoring streak to 13 games.
Just over a minute later, the Gophers doubled their lead thanks to some nifty moves by Dan Welch. Welch, led by Gino Guyer into the MTU zone on a partial break, took the pass and weaved through traffic for a backhander that he roofed over a butterflied Ellsworth to make it 2-0 Minnesota.
Michigan Tech (1-6-3, 0-5-2 WCHA) got one back in the final minute of the first period, courtesy of Brett Engelhardt. Colin Murphy’s shot from between the circles banged off a skate in front, leaving Engelhardt half the net open. The MTU captain made no mistake, rapping home his team-leading seventh goal of the year at 19:02 from the left edge of the crease.
The Huskies made it a 2-2 tie shortly after intermission, with Engelhardt again key to the play. After blocking a shot in the defensive zone, Engelhardt got the puck ahead to rookie Chris Conner, whose soft wrister from the right circle skimmed between the legs of Weber at 1:50.
Minnesota answered immediately, though, with Fleming’s goal, a redirection of defenseman Chris Harrington’s slapper from near the right-wing boards that beat Ellsworth far-side. The puck also came through a screen by Jon Waibel, and it initially appeared that Waibel — in his first game back from a wrist injury — might have tipped the puck, but the goal was eventually credited to Fleming.
MTU picked up the pressure for the remainder of the second, forcing Weber into some excellent saves, the first on defenseman John Scott’s stuff attempt at the five-minute mark. Conner got back in the offensive act with two shorthanded scoring chances and an even-strength stuff try that Weber blocked down.
The third period was played in both ends, with each team having its chances, but both netminders were solid.
Vanek’s backhander about five minutes in was stopped by a sprawling Ellsworth, and minutes later Weber was forced to bat away an uncontested power-play slapshot from Brandon Schwartz after a giveaway in the defensive zone.
The last solid opportunity for Tech came at 15:24, but Weber gloved Jon Pittis’ blast from the left circle to preserve the one-goal Gopher lead.
Minnesota blueliner Matt DeMarchi provided the final margin, hammering home a slapshot from the red line in the final seconds with Ellsworth out of the Husky net.
The Gophers and the Huskies wrap up their weekend series Saturday night at Mariucci.