ST. CLOUD, Minn. — With two periods in the books, the No. 7 Minnesota Golden Gophers looked to have an easy road out of St. Cloud against the Huskies with a 6-2 lead.
However, after SCSU rattled off two quick goals within the first nine and a half minutes of the third, the tides had turned, as a four goal advantage dwindled down to just two.
Luckily for the Gophers, sophomore winger Mike Hoeffel was able to notch the eventual game-winner just a minute after St. Cloud crawled back to within two to put Minnesota up for good, sealing a tight 8-6 win and securing a weekend conference sweep.
“It feels good to put a good weekend together,” Hoeffel said after Saturday night’s game. “We let (St. Cloud) back into the game and there was a good lesson learned that we needed to finish the game and obviously that’s something we will take into consideration for games in the future.”
For the second night in a row, the Gophers jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead, this time just 6:16 into the first while on a power play. Freshman Jake Hansen and junior Tony Lucia set up junior center Mike Carmen for his seventh goal of the season.
The Huskies then clawed back quickly after the early goal, as freshman Travis Novak netted his fourth goal of the year, with the lone assist going to senior and St. Cloud native John Swanson.
SCSU took their only lead of the game on junior Ryan Lasch’s first of three goals on the evening. The goal was Lasch’s eighth of the year with assists credited to sophomores Aaron Marvin and Garrett Roe.
However, the Huskies’ lead didn’t last long, as Minnesota netted two goals within 22 seconds of each other, just a minute and a half after SCSU took the lead.
Hoeffel added his sixth of the year and junior captain Ryan Stoa chipped in his 14th of the campaign as four different Gophers helped with assists on the two goals.
Coming out of the first intermission break, Minnesota was clinging to a one-goal lead, but then let forth an offensive explosion, rattling off three goals to take a commanding 6-2 lead.
Junior Jay Barriball, sophomore Cade Fairchild and freshman Jordan Schroeder all charted big second period goals for the Gophers.
SCSU coach Bob Motzko then went to his bench for the start of the third period, relieving junior goaltender Jase Weslosky for sophomore keeper Dan Dunn.
Weslosky only stopped 14 of 20 Gopher shots faced Saturday night, after giving up five Minnesota goals Friday night in Minneapolis.
Looking to be down and out, the Huskies’ offense came alive, scoring four goals in the third period, the first two scored by Lasch, securing a hat trick for the SCSU assistant captain.
Lasch’s second of two third period goals was one for the highlight reels, as he played a game of pitch and catch with himself behind Gophers’ sophomore net minder Alex Kangas.
“I just saw the defenseman come after me, so I just banked it off the back of the net and tried to go around him,” Lasch said after Saturday night’s loss. “I was talking to our goalie coach Justin Johnson and remembered him saying that he was vulnerable with quick attacks around the net, so I just tried to slide it past him.”
Lasch did so, netting a wraparound goal for the hat trick, pulling SCSU to within two goals with just over ten minutes left to play.
In front of a sell out crowd of 6,198 on Hockey Day in Minnesota, it was the Gophers’ Hoeffel who stole the show from St. Cloud.
Just over a minute after Lasch had pulled the Huskies back to within two, Hoeffel found himself between the circles, firing a wrister and beating Dunn glove side for the eventual game winner.
However, the Huskies once again clawed their way back into the game, scoring another two goals in a two and a half minute span to pull the game back to within one.
Freshman Jared Festler scored his seventh goal of the year, while junior captain Garrett Raboin added his seventh of the year to put SCSU within striking distance.
After a timeout by St. Cloud with just over one minute left in the contest, Motzko pulled Dunn, allowing the Huskies an extra attacker. The Huskies had chances, pressuring Kangas, but just as time wound down and the SCSU chances were becoming scarce, the Gophers added an empty net goal by Stoa with just eight seconds left in the game.
“It was an emotional day and we were down 6-2, and had to show some character,” Motzko said. “All we said was let’s score two goals and get the crowd back into it, and we did and then (the game) started to go. So in a crazy game like that, it’s simple; we took one bad penalty and just couldn’t get anything going.”
The Gophers have now won five in a row against SCSU, dating back to the WCHA Final Five last year, including two season sweeps in 08-09.
St. Cloud travels to Colorado Springs to take on the CC Tigers next weekend, while the Gophers are off until facing the MSU-Mankato Mavericks in a home-and-home on January 30-31.