MINNEAPOLIS — Saturday’s contest between St. Cloud State and Minnesota looked a lot like Friday’s series opener: a lot of penalties, some entertaining open-ice skating, passing and hitting, and not a lot of scoring.
In the end, the result, too, was similar; as they did Friday, the Golden Gophers opened a two-goal lead late in the game, then held off a Husky rally to win 2-1 at Mariucci Arena. Jay Barriball netted the game winner, his first goal of the season, early in the third period and Alex Kangas permitted just one goal on 28 SCSU shots on net.
“[The Gopher defense] limited shots to the outside for the most part, and [SCSU] didn’t get a lot of second chances,” said Kangas, who moved his record to 2-0-0 (2-0-0 WCHA) along with the rest of his team.
For St. Cloud (2-2-0, 0-2-0 WCHA), the contest was about missed opportunities and close calls for a second straight game, but SCSU head coach Bob Motzko saw a silver lining.
“We hit a lot of crossbars the last couple of days,” said Motzko. “That means we’re close.”
Barriball went to the penalty box moments into the third period with the Gophers leading 1-0, but Minnesota foiled the SCSU power play and Barriball promptly redeemed himself by scoring the Gophers’ second goal, a putaway from the edge of the crease at 3:26.
The tally, Barriball’s first of the season, gave Minnesota a 2-0 lead and breathing room. but St. Cloud promptly got the goal back after Tony Lucia took a tripping call trying to break up a one-one-one in front of Kangas.
On the resulting power play, SCSU’s fourth, Travis Novak rang a point-blank shot off the crossbar behind Kangas, but the puck rattled out to Drew LeBlanc. The freshman’s first career goal might wind up being his easiest, a tap-in from two feet to narrow the score to 2-1 at 6:44.
Minnesota appeared for a moment to have regained its two-goal lead at 7:34 when a pass from behind the net ricocheted off captain Ryan Stoa’s leg and past Husky netminder Jase Weslosky. After video review, however, the goal was disallowed.
“They [the officials] thought it was a kicking motion with his leg even though it went off his knee,” said Minnesota head coach Don Lucia of the explanation for the call.
SCSU’s Aaron Marvin took an ill-timed slash with less than five minutes to go in regulation, stalling the Husky comeback for two minutes. With the fifth Husky skater back on the ice, SCSU emptied its net after a Kangas save with 1:08 left, but the Gophers tied the puck up along the boards and then cleared the zone, thwarting any last-minute heroics.
“It was the type of game I expected,” said Lucia. “I thought St. Cloud would play better and they did.”
Early on, consecutive penalties on Marvin and Garrett Roe gave the Gophers a five-on-three midway through the first period, leading to the first Minnesota goal.
The Huskies killed the first infraction, but seconds later Mike Carman scored his second goal of the campaign, taking Ryan Flynn’s diagonal pass after getting free on the back side and rifling a shot inside the right post at 10:36.
“We did a great job on that five-on-three,” said Motzko. “We had that killed, an unbelievable job, and then one mistake.”
More penalties followed — for a total of nine in the first 20 minutes — but to no effect on the scoreboard as the teams headed to intermission with Minnesota still up a goal.
The middle frame featured better flow as both teams settled down and stayed out of the box for a while. SCSU’s Ryan Peckskamp finally went off eight minutes in, but the Huskies stifled the Gophers’ fourth power play of the game to keep the deficit to one.
Minnesota kept the pressure on for the rest of the period, but Weslosky was up to the task on each Gopher attack, including on a series of point-blank tries late in the frame. After an even first period in terms of shots, the Gophers outshot the Huskies 13-6 in the second.
For the contest, shots on goal favored Minnesota by a 30-28 margin. Weslosky stopped 28 Gopher shots in a losing effort.
Next weekend, Minnesota travels to play Wisconsin for a pair in the WCHA, while St. Cloud steps outside the conference for a visit to Bemidji State.