MINNEAPOLIS —- Minnesota wasn’t happy with a Friday night tie against Colgate, and with the first period about to expire in Saturday’s game against Rensselaer, things weren’t looking much better.
However, the Gophers bounced back from conceding the game’s first goal to the Engineers and picked up a 6-2 win in the third place game of the Mariucci Classic at Mariucci Arena, thanks in large part to a strong second period.
Minnesota welcomed back coach Don Lucia, forward Hudson Fasching, and defenseman Brady Skjei from the World Juniors tournament in Saturday’s game.
“It’s good to get back with the guys,” Lucia said. “When you’ve been away from the guys, you probably love them a lot more than when you’re with them all the time.”
RPI held a 1-0 lead going into the final minute of the first period, but then the Gophers went on a roll. Minnesota scored with 43 seconds left in the first and added two more early in the second.
Travis Boyd made it 2-1 Gophers 23 seconds into the second when he launched a shot top shelf past Rensselaer goaltender Scott Diebold. Kyle Rau scored Minnesota’s third goal by sending a rebound past Diebold less than one minute later.
“I think our team responded well tonight,” Boyd said. “We had a good game.”
All in all, the Gophers had two rebound goals and a tip-in goal in the game.
“It’s called puck luck,” Minnesota defenseman Ben Marshall said. “Just emphasize getting the puck to the net, beating the first defender who’s trying to get the shot blocked so every now and then when you throw pucks on net you get lucky and the forwards bang them home for you.”
Justin Kloos hammered home another rebound given up by Diebold seven minutes into the second and made it 4-1 Minnesota. The Gophers outshot RPI 36-13 in the first two periods and finished with a 44-20 advantage.
Rensselaer got on the board first in Saturday’s game, thanks to a short-handed goal by Brock Higgs. After being sent in alone on a pass from Zach Schroeder, Higgs was stoned by Adam Wilcox, but the rebound went off a Gophers’ defenseman and ended up in the back of the net.
RPI coach Seth Appert said that even though they grabbed the lead, he wasn’t happy with the team’s start.
“We came out uncertain of ourselves and not 100 percent committed to play the way we need to play to beat a team of their caliber,” Appert said.
Minnesota tied things up in the waning seconds of the first thanks to a tip-in goal by Connor Reilly. The redshirt freshman was planted in the slot and redirected a point shot by Justin Holl past Diebold for his fourth goal of the year.
“We had a good, strong first period,” Lucia said. “We got a lot of good looks. That was obviously an important goal, because I think it set the tone for the second period.”
RPI’s Matt Neal scored in the third and Ryan Haggerty appeared to cut the Gophers’ lead to one, but the goal was disallowed because of an interference penalty, which was originally called on Haggerty. Rau quickly lit the lamp for the second time in the game on the ensuing power play.
Lucia and Appert had different views on the interference call; Lucia said he thought more calls like that could have been made in the game, Appert disagreed.
“They called Ryan for the penalty and I thought that was interesting that they had no idea who interfered,” Appert said. “It was a bad call, but that’s not why we lost.”
Seth Ambroz added an empty-net goal with two and a half minutes left in the game. Ambroz leads Minnesota with nine goals this year.