South Bend, Ind. - Gophers men’s hockey coach Don Lucia says setting the tone during the first 10 minutes of the game is a key to Minnesota’s success.
With goals on its first two shots, the first 10 minutes of the Gophers’ 4-3 victory over Minnesota Duluth on Thursday in the first round of the season-opening Ice Breaker Tournament couldn’t have gone much better for the nation’s top-ranked team.
The first 10 minutes of the third period — when the Bulldogs cut the Gophers’ three-goal lead to one and missed a prime opportunity to tie the score — nearly wiped that start from memory.
“We always try to get, if not a goal, at least the momentum in the first 10 minutes,” said senior captain Kyle Rau, who led the Gophers with a goal and two assists. “We were fortunate to get two and get rolling right away.”
Rau was integral in both first-period goals. Just 30 seconds in, Rau sprung linemate Sam Warning with a lead pass as he split the Bulldogs’ defenders at the blue line. Warning easily beat UMD freshman Kasimir Kaskisuo, making his first career start, with a nifty move to his backhand.
Just over five minutes later during a UMD power play, forward Hudson Fasching snuck behind the Bulldogs’ defense, retrieved a loose puck, and fed Rau, who deked Kaskisuo to score shorthanded.
“It was a couple nice plays,” Lucia said. “Both were good goals. We knew they had a freshman playing the first start of his career. There were some glorious opportunities, but there wasn’t a lot of them.”
The Gophers got second-period goals from Fasching and fellow sophomore Justin Kloos, bookending UMD’s first goal — a power-play score forward Dominic Toninato muscled past Gophers goalie Adam Wilcox — to extend the lead to 4-1. Kloos scored four minutes into the second period, roofing a wrist shot over Kaskisuo’s right shoulder, while Fasching scored with 1:15 left i on a redirect of defenseman Michael Brodzinski’s point shot.
UMD dominated early part in the third period. Defenseman Andy Welinski narrowed the Gophers’ lead to 4-2 when he whistled a shot from the right faceoff circle past Wilcox at 25 seconds. Less than three minutes later, Toninato scored a second goal, one-timing a feed from Alex Iafallo. The Bulldogs nearly tied the score not long after, but Wilcox, who had 24 saves, stopped Austin Farley’s breakaway bid with his glove.
“They started coming at us and we had a couple turnovers,” Rau said. “I think they had three breakaways in three minutes. Wilcox made some big saves for us.”
Rousted from their third-period malaise, the Gophers stifled the Bulldogs over the game’s final 10 minutes. Even during a two-minute stretch with Kaskisuo pulled for an extra attacker, UMD never really threatened to tie.
“When we play UMD, they’re going to be good games,” Lucia said. “They’re going to be close, hard-fought games. That’s what [Friday] was. I didn’t expect anything different.”
Said Rau: “Once we started getting pucks deep in the last 10 minutes — we didn’t score, but I thought it was the best 10 minutes we played. It’s a good learning experience. You can’t take your foot off the gas.”
RPI upsets Irish
Mark Miller’s goal in the fifth minute of the third period gave Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute a 3-2 win over No. 13 Notre Dame in the second game of the tournament. Junior forward Mario Lucia, the son of the Gophers’ coach, had the first Irish goal.