MINNEAPOLIS — It’s hard to say that two goaltenders stole the show in a game that had five goals, but Minnesota’s Adam Wilcox and New Hampshire’s Casey DeSmith may have done just that.
A scoreless first and third period sandwiched all the scoring in No. 5 Minnesota’s 3-2 victory over No. 13 New Hampshire on Saturday night at Mariucci Arena. The victory meant that the Gophers were crowned champions of the IceBreaker Tournament.
In the final seconds of the third period, Wilcox faced two golden opportunities from the Wildcats and denied them both to preserve the lead and eventually the win for Minnesota.
“That was way too close,” Gophers defenseman Justin Holl said. “That was an unbelievable save, he was laughing when he came back to the bench with seven seconds left. It’s all you can really do there. [Wilcox] has a flare for the dramatic. He’s an awesome goaltender; we’re happy to have him.”
The flurry of chances came after DeSmith had denied Hudson Fasching his second goal of the night, and a chance to extend the Gophers’ lead.
The Gophers took their first lead of the night when freshman Vinni Lettieri let a turnaround shot go from the left circle and beat DeSmith five-hole with a little more than two minutes left in the second period. The goal was Lettieri’s first of his collegiate career.
New Hampshire put the game’s first goal on the board quickly in the second when Eric Knodel redirected a shot past Wilcox on a power play that had carried over from the first period.
Falling behind seemed to awaken Minnesota’s offense, as it had three legitimate scoring chances right after UNH’s goal. The third chance found the back of the net off the stick of Fasching. The freshman hammered home his first career goal after a shot from Holl trickled behind DeSmith.
The Wildcats retook the lead later in the second on another redirected shot, this time off the stick of Nick Sorkin. New Hampshire’s special teams were very good on Saturday night. The Wildcats went 2-5 with the extra man and held the Gophers scoreless on six power-play opportunities.
“We’ve got some clever people out there [on special teams],” New Hampshire coach Dick Umile said. “Especially at the point with Knodel and [Trevor] van Riemsdyk, they can really quarterback the power play.”
Minnesota, again, wasted no time in answering the Wildcats’ second power-play goal.
After some strong pressure near the crease that left DeSmith out of position, Sam Warning found the back of a relatively-open net for his second goal of the weekend. Holl got his second assist of the night when his shot at an open net sailed high and bounced off the backboards to Warning.
Holl is transitioning back to his natural defense position this season after playing at forward for Minnesota last year.
“Last year was a little tougher going from defense to forward, considering that I hadn’t played forward in a while,” Holl said. “But going back now, it seem pretty natural.”
Minnesota coach Don Lucia said he was impressed with the way his team bounced back after falling behind twice in the second.
“It’s a game of surges,” Lucia said. “They scored and we surge right back to tie it up. All in all [Wilcox] didn’t have to make a lot of saves but, like he always does, he makes that crucial one late in the game.”
Minnesota will travel to Bemidji State next weekend for a two-game series with the Beavers.