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Gophers hockey adjusts lines, beats UNO for weekend split

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO
  • Star Tribune
  • December 2, 2012 - 8:30 AM

Fifteen minutes after the Gophers responded to a lousy performance Friday night by earning the split against Nebraska Omaha with a 3-2 victory Saturday, Don Lucia yawned as reporters walked to him.

"I'm tired," the Gophers coach said. "Didn't sleep very well [Friday] night."

That's why Lucia sent a loud and clear message to his team Saturday.

He scrambled his lines. He scratched struggling Mark Alt, showing nobody's untouchable as the junior defenseman's consecutive games streak ended at 92. And, even during this second game of the series, Lucia juggled his lines and benched players from start to finish.

"There are some guys that have to play better, and the lines were adjusted accordingly," Lucia said. "Even in the game, you saw a lot of different guys playing with different players. We did it based on who was playing well, who's ready, who's playing hard."

In front of a soldout Mariucci Arena crowd of 10,103, the Gophers looked like a different team than the night before, getting pucks behind the Mavericks' large defensemen, cycling down low, skating hard and being responsible with that puck (Lucia counted 50 turnovers Friday).

They got into the scoring areas, and only UNO goalie John Faulkner kept an initial deficit from growing vaster than 1-0 in the first.

"For a while there, I was thinking touchdown," said Mavericks coach Dean Blais, whose team fought back from a 3-0 deficit. "They were moving pretty good. We got our butt kicked pretty good in the first period."

The Mavericks' seven-game winning streak ended as Gophers leading scorer Erik Haula scored a goal and an assist for his fifth multi-point game of the season.

Nick Bjugstad and Tom Serratore also scored for the Gophers and Adam Wilcox improved to 9-2-2 with 18 saves.

The Gophers, who registered 21 shots Friday, outshot the Mavericks 33-20, no small task since they surrender fewer than 23 per game.

"We had really good energy in the hallway before we went out there, and you could tell guys were ready to roll tonight," defenseman Nate Schmidt said.

Andrej Sustr and Johnnie Searfoss scored to make for a tense finish, but the Gophers played a mostly strong game.

With Lucia disappointed by Friday's lethargic, sloppy effort, Christian Isackson moved from the first line to the fourth and Nate Condon moved to the top line alongside Kyle Rau and Bjugstad.

Jake Parenteau moved from forward to the blue line, and Justin Holl also played on the back end.

Lucia was very happy with Holl and Ben Marshall in Alt's absence.

"He can play better," Lucia said of Alt. "We just thought it would be good to sit and watch one game up top."

Haula got things started by drawing a penalty, then scoring a dazzling goal for a 1-0 Gophers' lead 2:09 in. Marshall went for a line change despite full offensive-zone possession from Minnesota. It proved big because Haula sprinted from the bench, took Mike Reilly's pass and slid across the slot on his backhand and whipped his seventh goal.

"I can move guys around, but it's irrelevant if they're not going to come out and play hard," Lucia said. "For the most part all year, they got that. For whatever reason [Friday], they didn't seem to have their legs and they didn't have their mind. And that's not a very good recipe for success."

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