SOUTH BEND, IND. – If history does in fact repeat itself, Gophers hockey fans should be thrilled about the team’s prospects this season.
The Gophers (2-0-0), who started 2013-14 by winning the season-opening Ice Breaker Tournament at Mariucci Arena en route to a trip to the NCAA championship game, repeated that feat Sunday at Notre Dame’s Compton Family Ice Arena with a 3-0 shutout of Rensselaer (1-1-0).
Goaltender Adam Wilcox made 22 saves in his eighth career shutout, tying him for second on the school’s all-time list with Adam Hauser.
“We played the right way today,” Gophers head coach Don Lucia said. “We passed the puck much better, we got some pucks down low in the offensive zone, we spread the rink better, and when we made a mistake, Adam was there to clean it up.”
Despite the noon local time start, the first period was a well-played, up-and-down affair with just one penalty and a handful of stoppages. The Gophers had the better scoring chances, including a Michael Brodzinski blue-line shot midway through the period that rang off the post, and a shorthanded breakaway bid by Sam Warning that was expertly played by Rensselaer goalie Jason Kasdorf.
The Gophers broke through with 5 minutes, 17 seconds remaining in the first period when Seth Ambroz, stationed just in front of the crease, tipped Mike Reilly’s drive from the point past Kasdorf for his first goal of the season. And less than 2 minutes into the second period, the Gophers’ Hudson Fasching scored his second goal in as many games on a similar play, redirecting a shot from freshman defenseman Ryan Collins over Kasdorf’s shoulder to extend the lead to 2-0.
“I know a couple times, there were shots coming back off [the boards] … I was trying to jam them in, but their goalie was really good on the posts, closing both sides,” said Fasching, who was voted Ice Breaker Tournament most valuable player. “We had to get some traffic in front to try and get some deception going.”
Rensselaer had trouble sustaining offensive momentum against the speedy Gophers defense. During the few opportunities the Engineers had in the late second and early third period to cut the score to 2-1, Wilcox was there to stifle them.
“We did a good job of boxing them out,” Wilcox said. “I was able to cover the puck, and there wasn’t anyone in my face. I thought we did a really good job with our structure in front of the net. It was second to none.”
“It’s usually the second or third chances that go in the net, especially when you’ve got a goalie of Wilcox’s caliber,” said Rensselaer coach Seth Appert, a Cottage Grove native. “When we made a push, he made sure it stayed out [of the net].”
The Gophers extended their lead to 3-0 with a power-play goal 7 minutes into the third period. Kyle Rau won an offensive zone draw back to Reilly at the near point. Reilly shuffled the puck to his brother, Connor, stationed on the opposite point, for a one-time attempt that got between Kasdorf’s legs.
“He’s an elite goaltender,” Lucia said of Kasdorf. “You’re not going to beat a goalie — especially a good goalie — clean from 30 feet out very often.”
Bulldogs beat Irish
Minnesota Duluth 3, Notre Dame 0: Matt McNeely turned away all 23 shots he faced en route to Minnesota Duluth’s upset of the 12th-ranked Fighting Irish (0-2) in Sunday’s third-place game at the Ice Breaker Tournament.
It was the second career shutout for UMD’s junior goalie, who also notched an assist for the Bulldogs (1-1).
Junior center Tony Cameranesi scored the game-winning goal with 12:20 left in the first period.