The second ranked Minnesota Golden Gopher Hockey team improved its record to 5-1-0 tonight at Mariucci Arena, with a 3-2 win over in state rival Minnesota State-Mankato. For those that bet on sports, it’s a good bet that the Gophers would beat Minnesota State-Mankato, but never a guarantee. Here is what I saw, both good and bad….
· Gophers youth on Defense reared it's ugly head early, throwing some errant passes around, and letting pucks get past them. Fortunately, these mistakes didn't end up hurting them, and they eventually leveled off and played better as the game went on.
· Gophers missed on a number of one timers, and couldn't seem to handle a lot of passes in general, including a prime scoring opportunity in the second by Christian Isackson on a 2 on 1. If there were any issues with the ice, neither team was talking about it.
· Adam Wilcox was good in net, but nothing spectacular. His best save of the night may have come off a redirection from his own Defenseman. He's very active, and likes to get out and play the puck. Looked like he may have slowed the breakout on a couple of occasions, and you get the feeling watching him that he might get burned one of these times when he comes out to play the puck. Don Lucia indicated after the game that Wilcox might get the start Saturday night in Mankato.
· Freshman Defenseman Mike Reilly is playing with more confidence. It was nice to see him jump up into the play offensively on a couple of occasions tonight.
· Gophers controlled the face off circle (36-19), and shots on goal (32-25).
· The Gophers continue to block shots, which contributed a lot to their success last year.
· The Student Section "The Ice Box" was in midseason form.
#3 Star - Zach Budish (1 Goal)
#2 Star - Nate Schmidt (1 Goal, 1 Assist)
#1 Star - Kyle Rau (2 Assists)
Post game interviews….
Overall thoughts: "I thought it was a hard fought game, the kind of game I thought it would be going in. I thought we played pretty good tonight, the power play came alive, and Adam (Wilcox) made a couple of saves when we needed him. I like how we started the 3rd period. We drew a couple of penalties, we were moving our feet, and I think we had them on their heals a little bit. We got the crowd into the game"
Regarding shuffling the lines: "We felt like we needed to get Budi (Zach Budish) going a little bit, and he ended up getting the game winning goal. So from that point it worked. Just trying to find a rhythm in our lineup"
Regarding in state rivals: "We knew they were going to be tight games. You know, they're ramped up to play us, and they've got a good group of players, and their goaltender made some big saves"
Regarding Power Play: "We had pretty good rhythm on the power play, especially that last one. You want to generate some chances, even if you don't score, to develop some momentum on the power play. We talked about shooting more. We had good net presence. It's nice that we had both units scoring"
Regarding playing Ben Marshall at forward: "We're going to keep him there until Sam (Warning) comes back, we have to. It's nice to have that flexibility. At the same time, the Defense is more in sync with Ben back there. But we've got a couple of talented Freshman back there, and we have to bring em along sometime"
Regarding Power Play: "We spent a lot of time working on the power play this week. We wanted to get a lot of shots, and let 24 (Zach Budish) & 7 (Kyle Rau) so what they do best, and pound home some rebounds. It's easy for me to sit back there and fire away, but it's the guys in front getting their noses pushed in that deserve the credit"
Regarding his goal: "That was a once in a while shot. I got a hold of it pretty good, but Zach did such a good job of getting his big butt in front of the goalie, I don't think the goalie ever saw it. I didn't even know it went in until Zach started celebrating"
Regarding Zach Budish: "That line rekindled some of the chemistry they had last year, and you could tell he was more comfortable on the ice. He doesn't get as much credit as he deserves. He puts pressure in the offensive zone, and it wears guys down"
Regarding MSU-Mankato: "Tomorrow is going to be another grind it out game. I think you're going to see a cleaner game"
Regarding his goal: "It was just a rebound in front. I think Kyle (Rau) whacked at it, and then I found the back of the net. I didn't know it went in at first. I'm a big body, and my job is to be physical, take away the goalie's eyes, and bang home rebounds"
Regarding reuniting with Rau & Bjugstad: "It's always fun playing with those two. I don't really care who I play with, but those two are really good players, and we had some chemistry last year. I don't think it's any secret that I haven't played my best hockey this year. The Coach (Don Lucia) has been all over me the last couple of weeks, and has been doing a lot of one on one film watching with me. He's showed me a couple of things I need to improve on, and a couple of things I was doing well. He's pushing me to get better, and I appreciate his help and support"
The #2 Gophers (5-1-0, 2-1-0 WCHA) take on the Mavericks again tomorrow night at the Verizon Center in Mankato. Game time is 7:00 PM, with the game being broadcast on Fox Sports North.
Tag(s): Other Gopher Sports