Thanks in large part to Mat Robson, Darian Romanko and a successful video challenge, the Gophers men’s hockey team defeated the No. 1 squad in the nation.
Robson made 34 saves, Romanko scored a third-period goal and the challenge overturned a St. Cloud State goal as the Gophers beat the top-ranked Huskies 2-0 on Sunday night at 3M Arena at Mariucci.
The shutout ended Minnesota’s five-game losing streak against its in-state rival, a team that Gophers coach Don Lucia called the best he’s seen this year after the Huskies’ 5-2 win in the series opener on Saturday in St. Cloud.
“I’m happy with the response,’’ Lucia said. “When you play a really good team, they can expose you at times. Our energy, our battle level … was much better tonight.”
The No. 10-ranked Gophers (13-10-1) gave a much more inspired effort Sunday against the deep Huskies (13-3-3) in front of an announced crowd of 7,917. They killed off three penalties, playing tight defense and blocking 20 shots, four by defenseman Ryan Lindgren.
“We kind of got read the riot act for our performance yesterday,’’ Robson said, “and rightfully so.’’
The victory was especially important for the Gophers because they moved up two spots to No. 9 in the PairWise Rankings, which mimic the formula the NCAA uses to pick its 16-team tournament field.
With Robson and Huskies goalie David Hrenak locked in a scoreless duel entering the third period, Romanko stepped up at an opportune time. He intercepted a pass in the Huskies zone, skated between the circles and fired a snap shot past Hrenak 3:10 into the period.
“I got a pass up the middle from their guy and buried one, finally,’’ the fourth-line center said.
“It’s great to see Romanko, who is a heart-and-soul guy, score a big goal like that,’’ Lucia said.
Romanko’s goal proved to be the winner after a Huskies goal was disallowed on Lucia’s challenge in the second period.
St. Cloud State appeared to take a 1-0 lead at 16:55 when Mikey Eyssimont beat a screened Robson. Originally, officials reviewed the play to see if there was a Huskies player in the crease, but the goal was called good. But Lucia successfully challenged for too many men on the ice, and the goal was waved off. Per NCAA rules, the Huskies did not receive a penalty for too many men as a result of the video review.
“I didn’t see it from my vantage point, but the [players] were pretty adamant,’’ Lucia said of the play. “Before they even scored, they were yelling, ‘Too many men!’ ’’
Said Robson: “That was a huge challenge by Don. I definitely owe him one for that.’’
Huskies coach Bob Motzko had no issue with the goal being waved off. “I’m OK with the call,’’ he said, adding, “I don’t know if they got to it the right way.’’
Staked to the 1-0 lead in the third, Robson made it stand with a 15-save period. Center Mike Szmatula scored an empty-net goal with 39 seconds left.
“It was all-in for the team,’’ Robson said. “The culmination of it all was at the end there, when you had five guys down on a knee blocking shots, just eating them into the chest.’’
Motzko couldn’t fault his team’s effort — or that of the Gophers.
“Our guys battled their rear ends off tonight,’’ he said. “Could we have had a better fate? We could’ve, but Minnesota played hard tonight.’’