ST. CLOUD, Minn. — There’s a good chance St. Cloud State goaltender Jason Montgomery will spend his Sunday afternoon with a bag of ice on the top of his head. After using it to turn away a handful of Minnesota shots Saturday night and spending the rest of the game standing on it, the noggin could probably use the rest.
Montgomery made 46 saves, 21 in the third period, and stonewalled a number of close chances as his team battled back from a two-goal deficit in the final period to sneak away with a 3-3 tie against the defending champs in front of 6,685 fans at the National Hockey Center.
Mike Doyle and Peter Szabo both scored for the Huskies in the third as St. Cloud rallied from two down for the second consecutive night.
“The whole key to everything was that we got really great goaltending,” said St. Cloud State head coach Craig Dahl. “I mean really great goaltending, and that gives your kids a chance to stay in it emotionally which we needed.”
Doyle scored off a deflection from a Derek Eastman shot in the slot just 19 seconds into the third and Szabo’s goal came on a power play with 1:10 to go, but in between Minnesota dominated.
The Gophers had numerous chances, most just in front of Montgomery. But as the bodies continued to pile up in front and the pucks kept hitting him, the 22-year-old redshirt freshman kept his cool.
“I felt pretty busy out there tonight,” said Montgomery, who improved his record to 2-5-3 with Friday’s win and Saturday’s tie. “They shot from everywhere, though, but I just have to stay confident and go out there and work hard, there’s no formula to it.”
Nor has there been one to shutting down the Huskies’ top line, but the Gophers seemed to have found it, at least for this weekend. For the second straight night the trio of Jon Cullen, Ryan Malone and Joe Motzko went scoreless, but like last night, different skaters stepped up for the Huskies, something that had been missing through most of the first half.
“Geez, I wouldn’t have believed [it],” said Dahl. “But to see Szabo get a couple this weekend and for [Joe] Jensen to step up was really good.”
“We didn’t give up much,” said Minnesota head coach Don Lucia. “I thought we really played well and it’s disappointing not to get the win.”
It looked like the Gophers were going to pick up their 12th win of the year through most of the 60 minutes, until Szabo’s late heroics. But the Gophers played better than they did Friday night, when they also thought they might have deserved the win.
Joe Jensen scored his fourth career goal, and fourth of the weekend, just over a minute in when he lifted a backhand over Travis Weber’s glove. Joey Martin tied it for Minnesota at the 11:11 mark of the first, sliding a puck from the goaltenders right side just past his left leg.
Jerrid Reinholz put the Gophers on top midway through the second, cleaning up a shot from Keith Ballard that hit traffic in front. Then Thomas Vanek gave Minnesota a two-goal cushion exactly eight minutes later, putting away another rebound from a Ballard shot.
But, to paraphrase the cliche, it’s not over until the horn sounds.
“When they scored on the first shift of the third period you just kind looked to yourself and said, ‘Not again,’ said Ballard. “But at the same time you have to look at the entire game and I think we controlled most of it, and we’ll use it as a positive and move on.”
Which the Gophers will, starting next weekend with top-ranked North Dakota invading Mariucci. St. Cloud has another tough task as well, heading west to tangle with Denver.