HOUGHTON, Mich. — With WCHA home playoffs on the line, the No. 17 Minnesota Golden Gophers did everything they could to try to snare the fifth spot with their win over the Michigan Tech Huskies, 2-0, during Senior Night at the MacInnes Student Ice Arena. The shut out was Gophers’ netminder Alex Kangas’ second of the season against the Huskies.
“The key (tonight) was Alex Kangas,” said Gophers’ coach Don Lucia. “We needed him to have a good game going into the playoffs. Hopefully, that’s going to get him back to the form of being an elite goalie.”
Senior goaltender Rob Nolan was busy from the get-go, making a key stop on Gophers’ forward Tony Lucia in the high slot just a couple of minutes in.
“We knew that we could control our own destiny,” said Tony Lucia. “Our whole goal was to get home ice.”
The Gophers (15-12-7 overall, 12-11-5 WCHA) struck first when a shot from forward Jordan Schroeder caromed off the post to Nolan’s right and directly onto the stick of captain Ryan Stoa, who buried the puck for his 21st goal of the season at 6:30. Defenseman R.J. Anderson also assisted on the goal.
“Ryan’s been an outstanding player for us all season long,” said Don Lucia. “He’s been our best player and certainly one of the best players in college hockey.”
On their second power play of the night, the Huskies (6-23-7 overall, 2-19-7 WCHA) had two great chances to even the game when both sophomore forward Jordan Baker and junior winger Drew Dobson fired shots at Kangas, but Kangas was equal to the task, making two of his seven first period saves.
“(This game) was huge not only for me, but for our whole team,” said Kangas. “I was fortunate enough to make some saves.”
Forward Justin Bostrom had a chance to extend the Gophers’ lead with a one-timer from the faceoff dot to Nolan’s right in the second period. Bostrom’s shot was gloved by Nolan, who made 10 of his 23 saves for the game in the period.
“It was really nice to get back in (tonight),” said Nolan. “I’ve had a lot of built-up energy and I wanted to leave it all out on the ice.”
After a questionable call put the Gophers back to work on the man advantage, forward Tony Lucia gobbled up a rebound and buried it for his ninth goal of the season. The goal, which came at 5:25, was assisted by forward Patrick White and defenseman Aaron Ness.
“It always feels good when you can chip in offensively,” said Tony Lucia. “I think when you get a couple goals, you get more confident.”
Nolan continued to be a bright spot for the Huskies, as he kept them in the game with stops on Gophers’ defensemen Sam Lofquist and Kevin Wehrs without giving up rebound chances.
“Scoring hasn’t been the issue in the last month or so,” said Don Lucia. “Tonight, we had our goalie playing the way he’s capable of playing.”
The Huskies struggled with discipline in the third period, as they gave up three power plays to the Gophers. Fortunately for the Huskies, the Gophers couldn’t really get much set up.
The Huskies earned their first power play of the third period with 1:07 remaining. Russell burned his timeout to try to rally the
troops for one last ditch effort, but the Huskies struggled to get any pucks to the net.
“We really passed up opportunities to shoot the puck tonight,” said Huskies’ coach Jamie Russell. “I thought we were very sound defensively.”
Kangas made 21 saves in earning his second shut out of the season.