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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A young Gophers team couldn’t have asked for a better set of tests in the opening weekend of the season. Experiencing a championship setting, a pair of deficits, and pressure in the final seconds of game should provide a solid foundation for whatever the first month of the season brings.
The Gophers survived each test to win the Ice Breaker Tournament with a 3-2 victory over New Hampshire on Saturday night at Mariucci Areana.
“It’s a good measuring stick,” Lucia said about the tough finish. “We had to play a good smart game tonight and we thought we did.”
That meant managing the game well and the Gophers did that outside a pair of quick New Hampshire power-play goals. The goals created 1-0 and 2-1 advantages for the Wildcats, but also produced some resiliency for the Gophers, which Lucia liked
Overall, the coach seemed very pleased with his team’s efforts this weekend. Junior forward Seth Ambroz was also happy with what he saw, especially when the Gophers trailed.
“When we answered those goals right away that gives us a lot of momentum. And then we were able to put one [goal] in there late and take the lead going into the third period,” Ambroz said.
Goaltender Adam Wilcox made sure the one-goal lead held up. Wilcox made two game-saving stops in the final seconds to secure the win. Lucia called it a typical Wilcox effort – making outstanding saves with the game on the line.
Wilcox was one of four Gophers named to the All-Tournament team. Forward Sam Warning was the tournament MVP and forwards Kyle Rau and Hudson Fasching were also recognized. New Hampshire defensemen Eric Knodel and Trevor van Riemsdyk rounded out the honors.
Lucia said junior defenseman Ben Marshall feels good despite taking a puck to his hand/wrist area in Friday night’s win against Mercyhurst. Marshall didn’t show any signs of pain throughout Saturday night's game.
“We didn’t know this morning if he would play or not tonight, but he loosened it up and he felt better this afternoon, so there was no doubt he would play,” Lucia said. “He did a good job, he’s a tough kid.”
Here’s the full game story and videos from tonight’s postgame interviews.
Gophers senior defenseman Justin Holl:
Gophers coach Don Lucia: