The Gophers turned the page back to a winning recipe.
Freshman-produced goals, multiple point scorers and even-strength success produced a 5-3 victory over Michigan on Friday night at Mariucci Arena.
Freshmen Justin Kloos, Hudson Fasching, Taylor Cammarata and Gabe Guertler scored goals. Sam Warning led 12 Gophers point scorers with two assists.
These are the ingredients that have worked for the Gophers this season, and they were reminded of it in their first of four meetings with No. 10 Michigan. Freshmen were a big part of the No. 2 Gophers’ impressive start, and they learned to never rely on a single player as the season progressed.
“I think we all knew we had to step it up. [The freshmen] got off to a hot start to the year, but we knew it was going to be a grinding season and had to work a little harder here in the second half,” Kloos said. “We’re glad we were able to get out here and give [goaltender Adam Wilcox] some support on the back end.”
With the four goals, freshmen have tallied an NCAA-best 41 this season for the Gophers (20-4-5, 8-2-2-0 Big Ten).
Even-strength goals also returned to the repertoire. As the Gophers’ power play improved, the five-on-five goals began to fade. Coach Don Lucia pointed out the imbalance over the past several weeks, and his team finally responded with four even-strength goals Friday.
Spreading out the offense was another piece of the winning recipe. Twelve Gophers contributed points, at least one from every line of forwards and two from defensemen.
“When we have trouble scoring we thought we’d throw [the lines] back to the way they [originally] were,” Lucia said. “It was nice to get back and score some goals when we’ve been stuck on one the previous few games.”
The Gophers were tired of playing slow. Wisconsin slowed the tempo last weekend, and it cost the Gophers two losses. They came out strong on Friday night and attempted 24 more shots (33-9) than the Wolverines in the first period, and won shots on goal 16-5. Kloos had one fewer shot on goal than Michigan’s entire team.
Michigan (14-8-3, 6-3-1-1) made up a lot of ground in the second period. They outshot the Gophers 18-14 and scored an important goal with 1:13 left in the period.
J.T Compher’s slapshot produced the Wolverines’ second power-play goal, assisted by Andrew Copp and Mac Bennett, who each finished with two points. The late goal changed the mood of the game 66 seconds after it looked like the Gophers were pulling away.
The Gophers briefly led 4-1 after Seth Ambroz deflected Warning’s shot on the power play. Michigan, however, quickly responded and carried the momentum into the third period.
Zach Hyman pulled Michigan within a goal in the opening minutes of the final period. Lucia said he thought the Wolverines seized control of the game at that point. Michigan eventually passed the Gophers in shots on goal (38-37).
Guertler’s first goal of the season, though, secured the Gophers’ victory.
“We [the freshmen] had a big night,” Fasching said. “We were in a little bit of a rut. We have a lot of freshman forwards and we had to buy into [Friday’s game], and we were lucky to get the job done.”
Luck is no longer part of the equation. Lucia expects his young guns to play like experienced players in mid-February.