ST. CLOUD, Minn. — With a plus-47 edge in shots on goal for the weekend, Minnesota’s sweep over St. Cloud State wasn’t surprising.
The fact that the series still could’ve gone either way, was.
The Gophers completed the sweep of the Huskies with a 3-2 win Saturday night at the National Hockey Center, a night after Minnesota’s 2-1 win Friday.
Sam Warning sealed the deal on a goal with 1:19 to go in the game. SCSU’s last hope was an Andrew Prochno shot that struck the pipe head on and ricocheted away from trouble.
“It’s been a long time [since he scored a goal] so it feels pretty sweet,” said Warning. “But I thought the two points was bigger than the goal.”
Warning’s winner was his fourth goal of the season. The last goal he scored was 18 games ago against Vermont on Oct. 21.
On a 3-on-2 rush for the Gophers, Jake Hansen brought the puck in and passed to the slot for Justin Holl, who gave it up to Warning on the doorstep. Warning roofed the puck over a sliding Kevin Gravel and SCSU goalie Ryan Faragher’s glove.
“I have to give all the credit to Justin Holl,” Warning said. “He made a good pass to me [at the] back door and all I had to do was put it in the back of the net.”
Warning led the Gophers with seven shots on goal Saturday and six of them came in the third period, which doubled SCSU’s third-period amount as a team. Minnesota outshot SCSU 46-12 for the night.
But despite outshooting the Huskies 14-5 in the first period, it was SCSU that went into the first intermission with the lead.
Ben Hanowski brought the puck into the Minnesota zone, made a move on Minnesota goaltender Kent Patterson, tried to go backhand and the puck bounced over Patterson’s left pad and trickled toward the goal line. Patterson lunged backward and tried to cover the puck, but it already crossed at the 13:54 mark.
The play was reviewed although the call on the ice stood. Minnesota coach Don Lucia wanted a penalty called on Minnesota’s previous trip down the ice when Nate Condon was hauled down by an SCSU player on the rush.
The Gophers tied the game nearing the midpoint of the second period, 14 seconds into their third power play of the game when Ben Marshall blasted a shot through traffic past Faragher.
Minnesota got another power-play goal with 4:12 remaining in the second when Kyle Rau found Erik Haula in the slot and Haula notched his 11th goal of the season.
“Even had something happened like a bad bounce and they scored, I liked the way we played tonight,” said Lucia. “We played a really good game tonight and we had to to eke out a win.”
The Gophers’ power play went 2-for-4 on the night. It entered Saturday’s game 4-for-29 (13.8 percent) since the Christmas break.
On the flip side, SCSU’s power play was non-existent in not getting many pucks to the scoring area and getting just one shot on net.
“A lot of times, the power play is part confidence,” said SCSU coach Bob Motzko. “Lately, it’s been a struggle for us, throwing the puck around the zone.”
The Huskies got an unlikely goal at the end of the second period when Hanowski carried the puck below the goal line and threw it toward the crease. The puck deflected off Patterson’s skate and in.
The game remained tied through the third period despite complete domination by Minnesota, allowing only three shots in the third period. What kept SCSU in the game was the outstanding goaltending by Faragher.
“We had a great goaltending performance tonight that gave us a chance from start to finish,” Motzko said.
Faragher made plenty of spectacular glove saves, highlighted by a save on Taylor Matson in which the shot hopped up off Faragher’s left pad and into the air. Faragher snatched the puck out of the air with his glove with Seth Ambroz waiting right at the side of the crease. He finished with 43 saves, the fourth time this season he’s saved more than 40 shots.
“Some of their chances were good ones and they kept me on my toes the whole game,” Faragher said. “That’s my job as a goalie. You have to put the team on your back when the bounces aren’t going your way.”
St. Cloud State travels to Wisconsin next weekend. The Gophers are off until Feb. 10 when they play at Denver.
“I always say that you have to play well to give yourself a chance, [but] it doesn’t mean you’re going to win every night,” said Lucia. “Tonight, we gave ourselves a chance to win based on how we played and based on how we played we deserved to win.”