MINNEAPOLIS — Star of the Game. Not bad for your first collegiate hockey game. Yet that was the honor afforded senior goaltender Brent Solei after his 28 save performance.
“We scored on the power-play, we got good goaltending and we won the third period,” remarked Minnesota coach Don Lucia on his teams formula for winning the game.
During Minnesota struggling one or more of these three elements failed the Gophers.
Strong goaltending came from an uncommon place. With two minutes left in the game, the Star of the Game was announced as Brent Solei. The announced crowd of 9,915 and all the players on the Gopher bench gave Solei a heartfelt cheer for his behind the scenes efforts the last four seasons.
“It was pretty sentimental,” remarked Solei on getting his first start. “It was at the back of my head. It was a little emotional.”
“Everyone is happy for Brent,” said Lucia. “They [the fans] appreciate a player when they know someone works their rear off when its not in front of them.”
It was a one goal game going into the third, Solei actually played well.
“To be honest, we played a little nervous and tight,” commented Lucia. “If these scored there [on an early power play in the third] its game one”.
“Based on how he [Solei] played tonight, he might give him another game,” added Lucia.
Lucia would not comment when this action might be but it will not be in Saturday’s rematch with Wayne State.
In Minnesota’s last four games they have lost the third period.
A rebound goal by Evan Kaufman combined with a power play goal by RJ Anderson topped off with a turnaround goal by Patrick White gave the Gophers a 3-0 victory in the third and a power-play goal to boot.
Blake Wheeler open the scoring at 2:51 of the second with another highlight real goal. Wheeler skated into the zone 1-on-1 shorthanded back handing a shot over the glove of Kyle Funkenhauser on the far side.
Jared Katz tied the game at one on a puck kept in the zone by Ryan Bernardi. RJ Anderson tried to pass the puck up the middle of the zone. The pass was deflected and Bernardi saved it at the line. Ryan looked up and found Katz at the goal mouth with no defender within 20 feet. Katz slid the puck past Solei.
“Fortunately Katz was not back checking on the play,” commented Wayne State coach Bill Wilkinson.
The game-winning goal was scored by Ben Gordon. Derek Peltier skated the puck into the zone up the right side and passed it diagonally back up the middle to Gordon who juked around the defenseman and fired a shot in the low far corner past Funkenhauser.
Minnesota started fast landing seven shots in the first 3.5 minutes drawing a penalty. The anemic Gopher power play never landed a shot and allowed Wayne State to settle their defense down.
The Warriors drew two penalties of their own and managed to land eight of the next 12 shots before Minnesota responded to close out the scoreless period.
The advantage was clearly to Minnesota but outplaying their opponents and not scoring and falling apart in the third has been Minnesota Achilles heal this season.
The Gophers managed to finish what they started tonight.
The same two teams meet Saturday night.