Embarrassed by an uncharacteristic home sweep at the hands of Notre Dame last weekend, the Gophers men's hockey team took out its frustrations on Arizona State on Thursday night at 3M Arena at Mariucci.
Behind hat tricks from Brannon McManus and Sammy Walker, and two goals and two assists from Blake McLaughlin, the fourth-ranked Gophers steamrolled their way to a 10-0 victory over the Sun Devils, a team that's wrapping up an eight-game, 23-day road trip and is playing all 28 of its games on the road in Big Ten Country this season.
How dominant were the Gophers in improving to 12-3? They outshot Arizona State 23-2 in the first period, 40-8 through two periods and 52-14 for the game. They scored 10 goals for the first time since Jan. 17, 2004, in a 10-3 win over Minnesota State Mankato.
"We had a real strong game tonight. We had some orneriness to us,'' Gophers coach Bob Motzko said. "… Arizona State, they're banged-up right now, and tonight was just not going to be a good night.''
Nathan Burke and Ben Meyers also scored for Minnesota, while Jackson LaCombe and Scott Reedy each had four assists. Goalie Jack LaFontaine needed to make only 14 saves for his third shutout of the season.
The loss dropped the Sun Devils to 5-12-2 overall and1-6 on this trip, which concludes with Friday's 4 p.m. series finale.
"It's never fun losing, and we were better prepared this week,'' said McManus, who had a natural hat trick that spanned the second and third periods. "We played Gopher hockey tonight, so it was a good, full 60 [minutes].''
The Gophers opened the game with much more energy than they displayed in Saturday's 3-2 loss to Notre Dame and took control with a four-goal barrage in the first period that saw McLaughlin score twice on setups by Reedy. The senior was back in the lineup at right wing rather than center after missing the past three games because of an injury.
"It was a little different playing wing, but I just had to get my boots moving early,'' Reedy said. "… It's always nice playing with McLaughlin and Walker. They make it easier.''
Said McManus of Reedy's return, "It was absolutely huge. … He plays with that edge every night.''
Walker's night included a roofed short-side backhander to complete a beautiful give-and-go play with McLaughlin in the first period, a second goal early in the second and his third with 1:15 left in the third. McManus finished his natural hat trick 6:17 into the third, chasing Sun Devils backup goalie Evan DeBrouwer in favor of Bronson Moore, a call-up from the ASU club team.
"I had only two goals this year so far, so I was happy to get one in there,'' said McManus, who posted his second career hat trick.
Burke, a Scottsdale, Ariz., native, got in on the action, too, scoring against his home-state team for the first time.
Motzko was pleased with the effort and result but warned that this week's job isn't finished.
"I always say, 'You don't sing and dance until Saturday night,' '' he said, referencing a usual Friday-Saturday series. "You've got to finish your job on the weekend, and we've got one big game to go.''