MINNEAPOLIS — Propelled by two goals from Ryan Potulny, No. 3 Minnesota started fast and outskated No. 1 Michigan 5-1 Friday night.
The win, combined with Wisconsin’s loss to Michigan State, could push Minnesota to the top of the USCHO.com/CSTV poll, but head coach Don Lucia wasn’t impressed.
“The only poll that I care about is the PairWise,” said Lucia on the possibility of being number one in the nation Monday.
Focusing on Saturday night, Lucia added, “These games are big at the end of the year. Michigan State is around .500 and will be a team under consideration [for PairWise purposes] at the end of the year. They have a great program with a proud tradition and a great coach. Our guys were very excited to play Michigan and Michigan State.”
Potulny echoed his coach’s sentiments. “Playing Michigan for the first time was very special,” he said.
Special, indeed. Potulny came out flying, extending his nation-leading tally to 14 goals with two in the first few minutes of the game.
The first came at 3:10 on a rebound off the crossbar on a shot taken by freshman forward Ben Gordon. The puck came off hard, straight out front to Potulny, who buried it over sprawling Michigan netminder Al Montoya.
Just 28 seconds later Potulny found himself with an open net on another big rebound on a shot from the point, this one by freshman defenseman Derek Peltier. Montoya played the puck with his pads and it came off hard to the weak-side circle. Potulny one-timed it into the partially open net before Montoya could move over.
“We did not expect a lopsided game. If we played them 10 more times, I don’t think you would see it again,” said Potulny on the margin of victory.
“We knew the game would start fast, we just didn’t expect to be down by two goals that quick,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson.
The Gophers continued to pour the shots on Montoya, netting two more goals in the first 12:46 of the game.
Senior center Jake Fleming got his first of the season on a one-timer from the right circle. Tyler Hirsch assisted on the play, feeding Fleming the puck from the right corner as he was pressured from a Michigan defenseman at 11:55.
Minnesota scored its fourth even-strength goal of the period on a transition play started by Peltier at the Gopher blueline. Peltier hit Hirsch entering the Wolverine zone, and Hirsch rotated 180 degrees while in motion to feed a streaking Gino Guyer at the bottom of the right circle. Guyer wristed the puck into the corner to complete the 4-0 Gopher run.
At 15:18 Michigan finally caught a break on a shot by Jeff Tambellini that missed the net by two feet. The bank came off the boards to sophomore forward David Rohlfs on the weak side of the crease. Rohlfs banged the puck in on the low angle as Minnesota goaltender Kellen Briggs tried turning himself around to follow the puck behind the net.
The Gophers started the second period with a bang at 1:32, extending their lead to 5-1 on a screened shot from the left point by defenseman Mike Vannelli. It was Vannelli’s first goal of the year. The play started on a faceoff win by Jerrid Reinholz, who drew the puck to linemate Kris Chucko. Chucko fed the puck back to Vannelli, who drifted towards center and threw a wrister into the near corner in front of the screened Montoya.
“I was real happy with all aspects of our game,” said Lucia. “I thought the quick goal in the second was really the most important. It was the nail in the coffin.”
The second period ended 5-1 Minnesota, which held a 26-15 shot advantage.
“They were a much better team with the puck. Our defense could not handle their offense,” said Berenson on Minnesota’s play.
Berenson sat Montoya down to start the third, replacing him for only the second time this season with Noah Ruden. Ruden only saw 18 seconds of action in his other appearance versus Miami, where he replaced Montoya at the end of the game.
“It wasn’t him, it was the team. I thought it was a good time to get him out,” attested Berenson on pulling Montoya.
“They can skate and we just watched them. By the end of the shifts our guys were just dying off,” said Tambellini.
Ruden held the Gophers scoreless on 10 shots in the period.
Minnesota’s netminding came up big in the third, stopping all nine Wolverine shots, including two on a 2-on-1 breakaway by Tambellini and Rohlfs. Both forwards were denied by Briggs from point-blank range.
Saturday night Michigan travels to No. 2 Wisconsin, while No. 3 Minnesota faces off against Michigan State at home to finish up the College Hockey Showcase.