HOUGHTON, Mich. — After their loss on Friday night, the No. 1 Minnesota Golden Gophers needed a better all-around effort Saturday night against the Michigan Tech Huskies at the MacInnes Student Ice Arena.
Two goals from winger Seth Ambroz, including one with 3:35 left in regulation, spoiled a great effort from Huskies’ goaltender Pheonix Copley and sealed a split for the Gophers with a 3-2 victory.
The win was Minnesota coach Don Lucia’s 600th career victory.
“[Ambroz is] somebody we talked about today that had to play better,” said Lucia. “He didn’t have a good game yesterday and he knew it. He’s one of those other sophomores that we felt has to have a big year for us. He had a couple of timely goals for us tonight.”
Ambroz scored what would stand as the game-winning tally when winger Nate Condon’s shot bounced out to center Travis Boyd. Boyd directed the puck to Ambroz, who fired a shot that just got over Copley’s glove.
“I got the puck on my stick and my head was absolutely buried,” said Ambroz. “I just kind of shot with hopes and dreams there.”
The Gophers (3-1-0 overall, 1-1-0 WCHA) jumped on the Huskies early as winger Kyle Rau got the game’s first shot just 30 seconds in from below the dots to Copley’s left. Copley was ready for the shot, making one of his 31 saves look routine.
“The guys were battling hard in front of me,” said Copley. “We battled hard, but came up short.”
The first good chance for MTU came off the stick of winger C.J. Eick, who took a pass from center Dennis Rix, skated in alone on Minnesota goalie Adam Wilcox, but his shot was handled by the freshman netminder.
Wilcox made another key save off a shot from Huskies’ winger David Johnstone, who received the puck off the faceoff at the right circle, but Wilcox showed poise in making the stop.
The Gophers had a golden opportunity to take the game’s first lead late in the first period when Huskies’ winger Milos Gordic took a penalty for boarding. While the Gophers failed to score on the advantage, they would strike shortly after.
Defenseman Ben Marshall and fired a shot that Copley saved. The rebound kicked out and off Rau in front of the net to a waiting Ambroz. The winger made a quick move to his backhand and beat Copley along the ice at 17:45.
The Gophers started the second period in a similar way to the first as captain Zach Budish intercepted a clearing pass and fed Erik Haula in the high slot. Haula’s backhand shot was stopped by Copley.
“I thought we were in react mode a lot tonight,” said Michigan Tech coach Mel Pearson. “They are a good team. They are going to win a lot of hockey games. For us to hang with them shows we are a heck of a hockey team.”
A little over a minute later, the Gophers had two more good chances as Condon and Ambroz each had the puck in close to the Huskies’ goal. Copley again thwarted the Gophers’ advances.
Looking to even the game, Huskies’ winger Chad Pietila took a pass from captain Carl Nielsen, skated in close and lifted a shot over Wilcox’s shoulder at 6:18 for his second goal of the weekend. Assistant captain Brad Stebner also assisted on the goal.
“Most people out there are probably going to say that Tech’s either lucky or they are happy to get a split,” said Nielsen. “You ask anyone on our staff or our locker room and that’s not the case. We came up short in our minds.”
The game became a chess match until Gophers’ defenseman Mike Reilly caught Huskies’ defender Steven Seigo pinching. Reilly found Haula behind Seigo, who cut to the net and beat Copley along the ice to the far side at 11:34.
After the Gophers failed to convert on a power-play opportunity, the Huskies (2-2-0 overall, 1-1-0 WCHA) evened the game again after a series of bounces caused the puck to sneak past Wilcox. Michigan Tech winger Alex Petan attempted to feed winger Ryan Furne in front of the net. The puck hit Wilcox, kicked out at Furne, popped up in the air and off Minnesota winger Nick Bjugstad into the back of the net at 19:03.
Pearson pulled Copley with 1:13 remaining, but the Huskies couldn’t get any quality scoring opportunities with the extra attacker.