MINNEAPOLIS — Of all the players on Minnesota’s roster, it’s safe to say that no one draws more crowd reaction from the Mariucci Arena faithful than Jacob Cepis. Although listed as a left wing, Cepis usually makes himself the center of attention whenever he climbs over the boards.
But on Sunday, the 5-foot-8, 170-pound Cepis’ best move was to elude the spotlight … be it ever so briefly.
With the Gophers trailing second-ranked Minnesota-Duluth by a goal early in the third period, Cepis seemed to vanish after a faceoff in the UMD zone but reappeared just seconds later behind the Bulldogs defense in time to net the tying goal in what turned out to be a 2-2 draw.
Cepis received a no-look pass from center Nate Condon, made a quick move to his right and backhanded the puck between the legs of UMD freshman goaltender Aaron Crandall.
According to Cepis, more credit should go to the pass than the goal but don’t tell that to Condon. “I didn’t do too much work,” Condon said. “I just kind of deflected it down there and he was in the right spot.”
The goal allowed the Gophers (9-7-2, 6-6-2 WCHA) to take three out of a possible four points from UMD (12-3-3, 9-3-2) heading into the winter break for both teams. The game also marked the first time this season that Minnesota managed to earn a point when trailing after two periods (0-7-1) and the first time UMD has failed to close out an opponent when leading going into the third (7-0-1).
“We really needed that,” Cepis said. “Three points against a very good team is … almost a best-case scenario. It’s a confidence-builder going into Christmas.”
After UMD’s Kenny Reiter and Minnesota’s Kent Patterson combined to make 66 saves on Friday night in a 3-2 Gophers victory, great goalie play was once again the story in the rematch. Crandall stepped in for Reiter and turned aside 34 Minnesota shots, while Patterson backed up his 37-save performance with 41 more on Sunday.
Originally scheduled for Saturday night, the game was moved to Sunday due to a severe winter storm which dumped upwards of 20 inches of snow across the southern portions of Minnesota on Saturday. With Minnesotans still digging themselves out, many of the 9,847 ticket buyers stayed home and missed out on another terrific game between the two teams.
Minnesota held a 15-6 advantage in shots after 20 minutes and largely dominated a first period featuring goal-scoring similarities with Friday night’s contest. As was the case on Friday, the Gophers got on the board first on a deflection when junior forward Jake Hansen tipped Justin Holl’s shot past Crandall at the 17:26 mark. The goal came with one second remaining on a Minnesota power play in which the Bulldogs had held the Gophers without a shot to that point.
But UMD’s Jack Connolly tied it up in the final minute of the period, one-timing a Justin Faulk pass from the left circle past Patterson with 37 seconds to go. Faulk also assisted on Connolly’s goal scored from nearly the same spot on Friday with 13.6 seconds left in the opening period.
“I didn’t like our first period at all. I thought we were atrocious; it looked like we sat around the hotel yesterday,” said UMD coach Scott Sandelin, who also remarked about the lack of energy in the building due to the low turnout.
The Bulldogs had Crandall to thank for the 1-1 score as the freshman netminder stifled several excellent Minnesota scoring chances, particularly Taylor Matson’s short-handed breakaway attempt midway through the period.
As the old adage goes, however, turnabout is fair play and the middle period bore no resemblance to its predecessor. The Bulldogs racked up 22 shots on Patterson to just five for Minnesota and took their first lead of the series on sophomore forward Mike Seidel’s wrist shot from the right circle at 8:56.
“I was looking at pass at first and then kind of saw Kent cheating a little bit toward the pass,” Seidel said. “I didn’t want to make an errant pass for them to go the other way so I tried to get it on net. Fortunately, it went in.”
It was Seidel’s third of the season and the eighth career goal for the sophomore forward, who said Patterson — an ex-teammate from their days in the USHL with Cedar Rapids — needled him after the game about playing his part to pad Seidel’s statistics.
“He played unbelievable this weekend and I was just fortunate to get one by him today,” Seidel said of Patterson’s performance.
While the Bulldogs did not expect to return to Duluth with merely one point, they maintained a philosophical approach.
“Any point is good in this league; you need to get as many points as you can over the weekend,” Seidel said. “We got one, which is better than none, I guess, and we kept ourselves near the top going into the break.”
“You’ve got to get points every weekend in this league,” Sandelin said. “It’s a big point. It may not feel good right now, but it’s a big point.”