Friday, January 21, 2022

Men’s hockey: The Gophers dominate and score full-game win over Michigan

Ann Arbor, Mich. – The overall win of the game is a statistic kept in baseball. But after Friday, the Minnesota Gophers will be recording them on the hockey rink.

In their most complete and dominating game of a season that has been inconsistent at times, the Gophers controlled both ends of the rink, going on to beat the highly renowned Michigan Wolverines 5-1 on Friday atop the Big Ten standings .

Billed as a contest between the deepest and most talented teams of the conference, the Gophers saw a step up in the offensive, and frustrated Wolverine’s offense throughout all three periods, repeatedly blocking shots, passing passes. Interrupted and used the transition offense to his advantage.

Gophers coach Bob Motzko said, “We said we had to lead the world in blocked shots tonight, we needed to stay in the lanes, we needed to let them down, and our guys did a good job.”

The Gophers (10-7-0 overall, 6-3-0 Big Ten) received a pair of first-period goals from freshman Chaz Lucius and another from defenseman Brock Faber, both of whom were part of the USA Hockey National Team Development Program. Played nearby. In suburban Detroit before coming to Minnesota.

“It feels really good to be back with the boys and play good hockey. The most important thing is that the team wins, so that’s what matters,” said Lucius, who missed six games earlier in the season with an injury. “It felt really cool. It’s a game that our team definitely had on the calendar.”

Later, Sammy Walker was scored by Blake McLaughlin and Johnny Sorenson as the Gophers opened a hard lead and chased Michigan goalkeeper Eric Portillo through the net after 40 minutes.

There has been a lot of hype about the Wolverines throughout the season after Michigan players were selected with four of the first five in the 2021 NHL Draft, although the Gophers were selected to win the Big Ten in the preseason.

In the Gophers’ Nets, Jack LaFontaine haunted his former team once again, stopping all but one in 31 shots and improving his career 6-2-2 against Michigan. LaFontaine played two seasons for the Wolverines before relocating to Minnesota.

Yost Ice Arena is known to have one of the most outspoken and reluctant student sections in all of college hockey, so part of the Gophers’ game plan, apparently, was to take them out of the equation early. He did so, taking a three-goal lead and taking full control of the game in the opening 20 minutes.

“We came out very strong and we quickly set the tempo, and we had that full game,” Walker said. “It was definitely one you look forward to and definitely a fun game to play.”

They intensified in the second period. Michigan appeared to have taken a 3–1 lead near the halfway point of the game, but Sorenson encouraged Motzko to challenge the game. Replays showed that a Michigan player was entering the offside offensive zone, and the goal was taken off the board. Exactly 61 seconds later, McLaughlin made it 4-0 and the streak continued.

“Sorenson got a goal and an assist tonight,” Motzko joked. “He immediately looked (offside) and was screaming, so we give him that play. It was big. There was a lot of time left on the clock, and then we crouched down. That was a huge stretch.”

Portillo made 17 saves (12-5-0, 5-4-0) in 40 minutes of work for Michigan. Noah West, a transfer from Robert Morris, played the third period for the Wolverines and blocked all eight of the Gophers’ shots.

The series will conclude with a CT faceoff on Saturday night at 6 pm.

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