Jason Gonzalez has covered an array of sports at all levels over the last nine years. He learned ice hockey, however, long before — during the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, Utah (his hometown). He got a close up look of legendary Gophers alum Herb Brooks and other Minnesota hockey greats. Jason has been with the Star Tribune since 2012.
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The Gophers expected a physical game from the Canadians of Lethbridge. But not the type of game that led to four misconduct penalties and a total of 103 penalty minutes.
The overly physical exhibition game turned what was supposed to be an evaluation opportunity into an constant scuffle. Lethbridge had 15 penalties, the Gophers 10. Lethbridge had three players escorted off the ice, the Gophers had one.
Gophers junior captain Kyle Rau had his helmet ripped off twice and spent a lot of time tangled up in-between frustrated Lethbridge skaters. The physical shots taken weren’t friendly nudges, either. A couple minor punches were thrown and sticks were swung.
At one point in the second period, Lethbridge had four players in the penalty box.
“You know a Canadian team is going to play physical, but I don’t know if we expected it to be that chippy or dirty, almost,” junior forward Travis Boyd said. “But I think we handled ourselves pretty well. After the second period we calmed down. We took it easy in the third period.”
The Gophers did calm down and added two goals in the third period to pull away.
Rau said he hadn’t experienced such a physical game so early in the season, but enjoyed the intensity. After a six-month period without hits, the captain said it felt good to get out there be physical.
“It’s needed,” he said.
All the hitting and whistle-blowing may have distracted from the Gophers’ goal of piecing together lines and special teams units. However, they got plenty of opportunities on power plays and the busy penalty box allowed for continually changing line mates.
At the gun game story. Will update with full version once it goes live.