By Roman Augustoviz
Jim Strick, the sports information guy at the U for men’s hockey, ran the Twin Cities Marathon in the morning, just missing a Boston Marathon qualifying time for next year. But by late afternoon, he was the Gophers exhibition game. Here is his story on the game:
Minnesota looked in midseason form despite just one day of official practice prior to Sunday’s 6-1 exhibition men’s hockey victory over British Columbia at Mariucci Arena.
Six different players scored goals as the Gophers scored two goals in each period and used a shutdown defense to limit the Thunderbirds to 11 shots, including two in the third period. Minnesota also had a solid night on special teams, finishing two-for-three on the power play and holding British Columbia scoreless on all three of its power play tries.
The Gophers outshot the Thunderbirds 44-11 and reached a scoring total they hit just four times in 37 games last season. Cade Fairchild, Jay Barriball and Nico Sacchetti each finished with a goal and two assists for Minnesota, while Jordan Schroeder and Tony Lucia each had a goal and an assist.
(Oops, that’s wrong. Schroeder did not have a goal. He had two assists and almost got a goal short-handed but officials watch the play and ruled the goalie stopped the puck before it crossed the goal line.)
It marks the second straight year Minnesota has beaten British Columbia in an exhibition after a 3-1 win last season. The win was the Gophers’ 13th straight exhibition victory.
Barriball started the scoring for the Gophers when he skated in from the top of the faceoff circle and drilled a shot into the upper corner on the stick side of Thunderbirds’ goaltender Francois Thuot at 7:12 of the first period. It came on Minnesota’s only power play opportunity in the first two periods and was assisted by Schroeder and Fairchild.
The Gophers added a second goal with 45 seconds left in the opening stanza as Mike Hoeffel took advantage of a defensive breakdown, finding himself wide open in the shot. Schroeder dished a perfect pass from the right faceoff dot and Hoeffel wristed the shot into the upper corner. Barriball also assisted the play.
Fairchild gave Minnesota a 3-0 advantage at 7:42 of the second period blasting a shot from the top of the right faceoff circle off a crisp feed from Lucia. Sacchetti also picked up an assist.
British Columbia got on the scoreboard three minutes later following one of the Gophers’ few miscues of the night. Max Grassi converted the goal as an errant pass led to a three-on-one for the Thunderbirds. It was the only goal allowed by Gophers’ starting goaltender Kent Patterson, who finished with eight saves in the first two periods. Sophomore Jake Kremer saw his first collegiate action in the third period and faced just two shots, making both saves.
Minnesota regained its three-goal lead just over a minute later when Lucia converted a two-on-one with a long wrister at 12:03 of the period. Instead of passing the puck, Lucia took the shot himself and put it past Thuot for the goal. Josh Birkholz started the breakout with a long pass up the ice to earn an assist.
Schroeder nearly added another goal with a shorthanded chance midway through the third period when his high shot was bobbled by Thuot, who snagged the puck in midair just before it crossed the goalline. Video replay confirmed that Schroeder’s shot did not cross the line. Taylor Matson, playing his first game since missing the last 24 games of 2008-09 with a knee injury, also nearly added a third period goal when he hit the post from short range off a rebound of his original shot.
The Gophers did convert their fifth goal at 12:20 of the final period as Sacchetti launched a shot from the high slot off a pass from Fairchild. Sacchetti won the faceoff himself and it deflected off a Thunderbirds’ player to Fairchild, who fed Sacchetti for the goal.
Minnesota scored on its second power play chance of the game in the third period when freshman Nick Leddy scored on the back door off a perfect pass across the crease from Barriball for a 6-1 lead. Sacchetti also had an assist on the goal at 14:35 of the third period.
British Columbia had three power plays in the game and Minnesota killed off all three tries, allowing just one shot on the Thunderbirds’ man-advantage.