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Lucia: Gophers played St. Cloud State at right time

  • Blog Post by: Roman Augustoviz
  • January 30, 2012 - 11:22 AM

Ben Hanowski gave the Gophers' trouble. He scored three goals for St. Cloud State this past weekend, but nobody else got a puck past Kent Patterson.

So Patterson, who started his 49th and 50th games in a row, could celebrate a sweep of the Huskies. The Gophers won 2-1 and 3-2.

"They were opportunistic like they had to be being short-handed," Gophers coach Don Lucia said. "Obviously, we caught St. Cloud at a good time when they had some injuries.

"But,  to our kids' credit, we took advantage of that. I thought we played a really good game [Saturday] throughout the lineup. I thought we had good speed, moved the puck better. I thought Christian's line gave us a lot of momentum shifts."

Freshman Christian Isackson centered the Gophers' fourth line. The Huskies didn't use their fourth line much because it had two defensemen on it. SCSU only had 11 healthy forwards for Friday's game in which first line center Travis Novak got injured.

That left the Huskies with 10 forwards for Saturday.

Even so, the game at the National Hockey Center was tied 2-2 going into the final two minutes.

"I was fine with it," Lucia said, referring to the tie. "Even if something happened like a bad bounce, and they scored, I liked the way we played [Saturday]. We played a really good game [Saturday] and we had to to eke out a win. And it's a great lesson. You just got to stay with it."

The Gophers outshot the Huskies 46-12 the second game of the series, or almost 4-to-1, but needed freshman Sam Warning's goal at 18:52 of the third period to win it.

"I was happy for Sam. He hadn't scored in a long time and was a little up and down in his play," Lucia said. "But he is a fine player. There is a reason he scored 25 goals last year in the USHL as a senior in high school.

"And I thought Haula's line [with Warning on left wing and Jake Hansen on the right wing] was our best line all weekend long. So it was fitting in some ways that Sam got the game-winner.

"[Defenseman] Justin Holl made a heck of a play. Everybody thought he was going to shoot it. And Sam opened up and he had an easy goal."

Holl got the puck in the slot, then slid it over to Warning, near the right side of the net.

"Justin has really good vision," Lucia said. "That is one of his strengths is his stick skills. ... And Sam made the right play. Some guys would just go to the net. But he opened up and he was in a position to one time it."

The goal was Warning's fourth of the season, but first in three months.

Lucia said Warning was a healthy scratch a few times since then.

"He is a good player, but sometimes he lacked confidence," Lucia said. "We need that gold line -- which I call Haula's line, that's their practice color -- to play like they did [Saturday]. It just makes our team so much better. They were out best line [Friday] and they were probably our best line [Saturday].

 WELL-DESERVED WIN

 Lucia said Patterson was a bit unlucky against the Huskies. They scored two goals on only 12 shots.

"The first one was kind of a scramble and it ended up sliding in," Lucia said. "The second one, it hit the side of the net and then bounced and hit Kent's stick and went in. Those things are going to happen.

"That's what you worry about. As well as we are playing, territorial and doing everything right, we just can't score. But now, is another one going to bounce in like that? That is going to be hockey some nights, too."

Another puck didn't find it's way into the Gophers' net. And they found a way to win their third one-goal game in a row.

"I always say, you have to play well to give yourself a chance," Lucia said. "It doesn't mean you are going to win every night. [Saturday] we gave ourselves a chance to win based on how we played. And based on how we played, we deserved to win."

* Lucia said the Gophers recruited Hanowski, who set the all-time state high school scoring record at Little Falls. "He committed to St. Cloud State a week before he was supposed to visit the Gophers," Lucia said. "He is a good hockey player. They have a great family."

 FOURTH GOAL AT LAST

Warning was excited about his game-winning goal.

"The puck will find its way in the net if you keep giving 100 percent," Warning said. "It's been a long time. It feels pretty sweet. But the two points are bigger than the goal.

"It wasn't going my way for a little bit, but I kept in there and hung on and ended up getting one at the end of the game."

He had a game-high seven shots on net, six in the third period.

"We got that Friday win, so that was big and we just wanted to carry it over to Saturday night," Warning said. "St. Cloud played good. Give all the credit to them. We played good both nights and ended up with four points.

"Their goaltending was great [Saturday]. Both nights it was pretty good."

Warning said he has not been discouraged, being stuck on three goals for so long. " I have just been sticking with it," he said. "Practicing hard every day. Hoping it comes and it came [Saturday]. I had one or two good chances tonight and finally buried the third one.

"Me, Hansen and Haula have been playing good. I thought we were playing good the whole game."

 ST. CLOUD VIEW

 "Our guys played hard, but we were forced to play hard because Minnesota played very well," Huskies coach Bob Motzko said. "Our goalie, obviously, was the difference. He gave us a chance [Saturday]. He was outstanding. But our guys battled. It is too bad we had to battle so much defensively in our own end and hang in there.

"And I give Minnesota credit. They put every puck deep. They went to work to wear us down. And they did. They wore us down."

Huskies goalie Ryan Faragher stopped 43 shots, 17 in the third period.

"We turned the puck over at the blue line," Motzko said, recalling Warning's goal. "And then we couldn't make a mistake and we made a critical one. It turned out to be a one-shot game for us. With them, they had to find a special [shot] to get by our goalie. And they got it.

"We just needed to get one shot somewhere at the end."

One positive was Hanowski's play both nights. He had two goals, his 14th and 15th of the season, on four shots on goal Saturday and was a plus-2.

"Ben raised it up this weekend," Motzko said. "That was great to see him back. He scores a couple of goals. Gets one [Friday] night. He had been down for a little bit. It is good to get him back on a roll a little bit. Hopefully, this is a start."

FARAGHER UNDER SIEGE

"They did a good job of keeping the pressure on us," Faragher said. "A lot of the guys were playing a lot of minutes by the end of the game with the injuries that we have had. The guys had to step up and play their butt off in the third period. With [the Gophers] rolling all their lines, the pressure they had -- it was difficult to get the puck out.

"When we did, we got it in their end and worked it down low and got some chances out of it."

He said Hanowski's seconds goal, which tied the scored at 2-all with 62 seconds left in the second period, gave the Huskies hope.

"Scoring with less than two minutes is really big lift for the team going into the intermission with the momentum," Faragher said. "It is just one of those plays where you throw it on net and things happen when you do that. It was a good play on Hano's part and it was great to head into the third tied up."

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