When a game becomes as lopsided as the Gophers men's hockey team's 10-0 blanking of Arizona State did Thursday night – and that lopsidedness was apparent less than 10 minutes into the game – the score becomes a subplot and historical milestones move to the forefront.
For the Gophers, the 10-goal outburst was the first in program history in 17 years, when they beat Minnesota State Mankato 10-3 in January of 2004. Six of the 10 goals the Gophers scored against a short-handed and road-weary Sun Devils team came on the hat tricks of Brannon McManus and Sammy Walker.
That prompted a question to coach Bob Motzko on his postgame radio appearance: When was the last time he saw three hat tricks in a game?
Given the hint that he was an assistant coach, Motzko came up with the answer: Nov. 1, 2002, when the Gophers routed Alabama Huntsville 12-1. He recalled two of the players who got hat tricks but couldn't remember the third, prompting a humorous response.
"I knew [Jon] Waibel and [Troy] Riddle. How could I forget [Thomas] Vanek? He's like my son, for crying out loud,'' said Motzko, who coached Vanek with the Sioux Falls Stampede of the USHL and helped bring the Austrian to the Gophers a year after he became an assistant to Don Lucia.
As the Gophers built their lead on Thursday to 4-0 after one period and 7-0 after two, the Gophers' main task was to make sure goalie Jack LaFontaine came away with his third shutout of the season. He'd faced only six shots through two periods before making six more stops in the third. LaFontaine was quite vocal on the ice, alerting teammates of any potential threats as the clock ticked down.
"You could hear them on the bench,'' Motzko said of his players supporting LaFontaine. "He had another shutout earlier in the year when we turned the puck over and he lost it [in a 3-1 win at Michigan State]. We talked about that, being responsible late in games. Our guys are growing up.''
"We were talking in the second and third, 'We've got to play for Laf. We've got to protect him,' '' he said. "It's very meaningful for goalies to get that.''
On the other end of goalie spectrum, Arizona State coach Greg Powers used all three netminders on his roster. The last one, Bronson Moore, was a call-up from the Sun Devils' club program. He played the final 13:43, giving up two goals and making six saves.
"He had a great save on me,'' Gophers forward Scott Reedy said. "I wish I could have that one back. … Props to him for getting in there.''
Moore, a Tri-City, Wash., native, is familiar with Minnesota. He played the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons with the Breezy Point North Stars of the North American 3 Hockey League, a Tier III junior organization, then 19 games in 2017-18 for the Minnesota Moose of the USPHL Premier League.
"I was going to put him in with seven, eight minutes left and just let him get some shots, go out there and have some fun and get his name in [statistical archive] HockeyDB,'' Powers said. "He was actually really good. He had the two best saves of the night.''