The Minnesota Golden Gophers knew that they’d only see the Denver Pioneers on one weekend this year, and that weekend’s host was Mariucci Arena. You had to go back to February 19th, 1993 for the Golden Gophers last shutout versus Denver and it was up to Kent Patterson to man the nets for Minnesota. His counterpart in goal was Sam Brittain for Denver.
The first 0:52 had Denver take the first two official shots on goal and Minnesota needed to adjust to Denver’s pace of play which was very quick. Minnesota’s Kent Patterson would be tested early by the Pioneers driving the net but unlike his defense-mates, Patterson made the save on a shot in the first 4:30 played. The Gophers didn’t have a shot in the first five minutes played, even with all of the free end to end play that was occurring. The free play was because of striped officials swallowing whistles and not calling penalties for the first few minutes. At the 8:30 mark, shots were in favor of Denver 6-2, but Denver’s David Makowski would take the first penalty of the game at 9:01 for holding. Eleven seconds later, Minnesota’s power play was held up by Nick Bjugstad’s trip to the box for interference (at 9:12). The third penalty of tonight’s game would come at 10:46 when Denver’s Chris Nutini gave Minnesota their second power play on a hooking call. The next three minutes were pretty easy to watch and the final penalty of the period came at 13:58 when Minnesota’s Patrick White was called for cross-checking. Over the final minutes of the period, Denver’s power play really couldn’t do much, and the same could be said for Minnesota’s man-advantage as well. Denver went 0-1 on the power play with one shot while Minnesota went 0-2 with three shots. Overall, shots in the first period were 10-9 in Denver’s favor with no carryover penalties. Shots at the 12:00 mark went to Minnesota 9-6 and at the 17:00 mark they were 9-8 to Minnesota as well. Overall, I was surprised that the game was a scoreless draw after twenty minutes.
The first few seconds of action in the second period saw Denver openly outhustle Minnesota to loose pucks, but Minnesota was finding its legs and that takes time. Denver was also dumping pucks into the Gopher defensive end which will only give goaltenders’ fits. Denver’s Paul Phillips took a two-minute holding penalty at 3:02, giving Minnesota its third power play of the night which led to only two scoring chances. Denver’s Beau Bennett took a penalty at 5:54 for tripping, giving Minnesota its fourth power play on the night. Shots at the six-minute mark of the second period were tied 3-3 which was only six seconds into the Gopher power play. The play really opened up in the first minute of advantage time, but not only for Minnesota. Denver was challenging Minnesota by skating hard and playing physical. Saves that were necessary were made on each end by Brittain (Denver) and Patterson (Minnesota). The Minnesota power play didn’t amount to much after that, and came up empty. Shots at the 9:30 mark were 7-4 in favor of the Gophers but thirty two seconds later, at 10:02, Erik Haula broke the ice (excuse the pun) with an even strength goal. Haula was assisted by Jacob Cepis and Justin Holl on the goal. Denver would get its second power play at the 12:00 mark when Minnesota’s Tom Serratore took an interference penalty. Early on, it looked as though Denver was looking for a Gopher mistake. While driving the net on the power play, Denver’s Drew Shore lit the lamp with assists going to David Makowski and Jason Zucker on the goal. Shore’s effort would be confirmed by a rather short replay review as well. Matt Donovan would give Minnesota its fifth power play of the evening when he was imprisoned for tripping at 16:16. The Gophers couldn’t produce on their advantage, and took seventeen total shots on the period compared to nine for Denver in the second. Overall, Minnesota was up 26-19. Power plays through two had Minnesota at 0-5 and Denver at a measly 0-2.
Each team came out of their respective room of doom with the will to win and all they had to do was find it. Denver took the only shot on goal in the first two minutes of play, but it was clear that Minnesota was also making a supreme effort for the lead. Denver’s defense would get caught out on a few occasions, but Minnesota still couldn’t stuff the biscuit. At 4:01, Denver’s Jason Zucker would score the goal needed to take the lead off the single assist from David Makowski. Zucker’s goal came on even strength, which is what all of the first six minutes was additionally. Minnesota would get its sixth power play at the 6:13 mark when Denver’s Matt Donovan was hit with a two-minute cross checking minor in Minnesota’s attacking end. Minnesota started to put pressure on the Pioneers in the waning seconds of the first sixty seconds, but Denver’s defensive core was up to the challenge. The Gophers couldn’t win a critical faceoff in the final twenty-four seconds of time on the advantage but would get an opportunity at the end of the advantage. Repeated jabs by two players to stick in the biscuit were turned away by Sam Brittain and the Denver defense. Shots through 9:54 in the third period had Minnesota up 5-3 and that was a trend all night that Minnesota won in terms of various points that I tracked. Minnesota’s idea was to play with their strengths and challenge Denver similar to how the Pioneers challenged the Gophers to start the game by getting to loose pucks, skating faster, and taking more shots. But, Denver’s defense really showed its “true grit” (bad movie pun) in the closing minutes of play. Shots at the 14:00 mark of period three were only eight apiece, and play really was focused at the perimeters and the neutral zone of the rink between the blue lines. One penalty called in sixteen minutes played really did help the pace of play in the third period, but the hourglass known as the clock was not in Minnesota’s favor. It was on this night (Hockey Day Eve night) that the Denver Pioneers snuck one out at Mariucci Arena with the 2-1 win. Power plays ended up having Denver 1-2 and Minnesota 0-6. Shots in the third period were tied at eleven apiece for Minnesota to win the shot count 37-30.
Minnesotaand Denver get back together for Hockey Day Minnesota at a special matinee time of 5pm. The game will be broadcast live on Fox Sports North, and glowbass.com will have a complete post game wrapup of all the action. Send an email to Disch61@hotmail.com or leave comments below for suggestions you think I should investigate. Are you a Facebook user? Search “Minnesota Golden Gophers Hockey Examiner” for exclusive insight and analysis all around college hockey!
Until next time, I’ll see you at the rink!