MINNEAPOLIS — On a night which saw the Twin cities area get over six inches of snow, the Michigan Tech Huskies stormed to a 3-0 lead on the way to a 6-3 upset of No. 4 Minnesota.
It was the third straight home loss for the Gophers, following what had been a 20-game home winning streak.
The game almost did not start on time as the Huskies took over an hour to drive five miles through rush-hour traffic in downtown Minneapolis.
“To be honest, it felt like a home game with all the snow,” said Michigan Tech coach Jamie Russell about the drive.
Despite coming out hard, Minnesota failed to score first in large part due to senior goaltender Cam Ellsworth’s effort.
“They came out really hot. We tried to slow them down until we found our rhythm,” said Ellsworth.
The slowdown was mostly Ellsworth’s doing, according to fellow senior Colin Murphy. “Our goalie made some big saves. He kept us in it again.”
Russell agreed, saying “[Ellsworth] has done a great job since December.”
The Gophers rallied to within one on a power-play goal by freshman defenseman Alex Goligoski with just under seven minutes left at 13:42.
But Tech forward Chris Conner’s goal, just 54 seconds later, solidified Michigan Tech’s upset victory over Minnesota.
The puck actually went off Minnesota defenseman Chris Harrington’s glove as he tried to stay with the speedy Conner on a 1-on-1 rush. Minnesota netminder Kellen Briggs, Harrington and Conner all collided at the goal crease. Harrington attempted to sweep the puck away from the corner with his glove, but found the back of his own net instead.
“With effort you create opportunities,” said Minnesota head coach Don Lucia. “It was one of those nights.”
Conner’s goal was Tech’s fifth of the game and marked the third consecutive start in which Briggs had given up five goals.
“[Briggs] is not at the top of his game,” added Lucia. “We are not playing well defensively. It’s not one guy, it’s a different guy every night.”
Michigan Tech opened the scoring on a goal by defensman Lars Helminen at 18:15 of the first. Conner fed the puck from behind the net to Helminen on the weak side. Helminen buried the puck past Briggs on a one-timer.
The Huskies carried the momentum into the second and opened a two-goal lead on a similar play from the first. This time Murphy jumped on a loose puck after a faceoff behind Minnesota’s net and found Taggart Desmet at 4:37 of the second.
“I thought we fell asleep [in the second],” said Lucia.
At 10:54, Murphy finished the three-goal outburst by burying his own rebound on a 3-on-1 rush at 11:54. The Huskies looked in control of the game by outshooting Minnesota 10-5 during the 15-minute stretch.
“This is my last year to play against the Gophers,” said Murphy. “It’s my first win.”
“Their top guys were very good tonight,” added Lucia. “Their top guys beat us.”
The Gophers’ Gino Guyer started one of Minnesota’s rallies at 11:27 by buring his own rebound on a transition goal. It was one of the few rebounds left by Ellsworth on the night.
Freshman forward Evan Kaufmann brought the Gophers to within a goal at 16:29 by playing a screen with two defensemen and snapping a shot over the glove of Ellsworth.
The second period closed with the Huskies again leading by a goal, 3-2.
“I felt we had to get the next goal,” said Lucia about entering the third down a goal.
Lucia did not get his wish as Tech freshman forward Jimmy Kerr put the Huskies up 4-2 at 3:34 of the third on a slapper from the middle of the right circle.
“We have to get back to doing the small things well,” said Lucia.
The two teams meet again Saturday night at 7:07 at Mariucci Arena.