Defense Leads Gophers Over Huskies

It wasn't easy but the Gophers snapped their Friday night drought by beating the Huskies of St. Cloud in a defensive battle. Minnesota blocked shots, got into passing lanes and forced the Huskies into poor opportunities, allowing just one goal on the evening beating their in-state rivals 2-1.

With little offensive play for either team, it was the squad with the best defensive performance that came away victorious on Friday evening.

"We had better defensive flow than offensive flow tonight," said Gophers' coach Don Lucia.

St. Cloud coach Bob Motzka echoed this sentiment.

"I thought the difference in the game was how Minnesota [played] defensively," he said. "They blocked how many shots? How many shots did they go in their end and block. They went into the lane with a purpose."

Motzka explained how he felt that this Minnesota team is one of the best defensive teams he has seen.

"It's one of the better defensive teams they've had in awhile and they're committed to it," he said.

While the Gophers were playing solid defense, so were the Huskies, making goals a rarity in the first period. Senior forward Jake Hansen got the scoring started on a 2-on-1 break with Erik Haula. Haula fed Hansen who streaked past the St. Cloud defender and put back his own rebound past goaltender Mike Lee at 13:26 of the first. The goal was reviewed for possible goalie interference but after a lengthy replay, the call on the ice was upheld.

"I was a little nervous there they were taking a little while to look at it," said Hansen. "Honestly, I tried to go high glove there and it hit the goalie's glove and I didn't know where it went after that. I just saw it go in the net. I didn't know what they were looking at if it was goalie interference or they thought it was a kicking motion. In the end, I was pretty happy."

Although St. Cloud had a chance near the end of the first after a Sam Warning penalty, they were unable to convert, heading into the locker room trailing the Gophers 1-0. The Huskies had another powerplay opportunity early in the second and made the most of it. After a Tom Serratore penalty, the Huskies showed great puck movement to find Little Falls (Minn.) native Ben Hanowski wide open on the post for an easy goal, tying to score at one goal apiece.

With St. Cloud gaining momentum and confidence in the second, the Gophers looked to retake the lead. They did just that at 11:49 when Hansen, Kyle Rau, and Nick Bjugstad found themselves on a 3-on-1. Hansen slid the pass to Bjugstad who wasted no time in slamming the puck past Lee, giving the Gophers a 2-1 edge, a lead they wouldn't relinquish.

The Gophers continued their solid defense in the third period, allowing just one shot on net and 13 total for the game. It looked as though St. Cloud had the chance to tie the score as Minnesota took two minor penalties with under seven minutes remaining in the game. The Gophers easily killed both penalties and then found themselves on a powerplay after Taylor Johnson was sent to the box at 18:40 for slashing. With the man advantage, Minnesota cemented their 2-1 victory over the Huskies.

Despite an uninspired offensive performance, the Gophers' defense, as well as great goaltending, spurred the Maroon and Gold to victory.

"When you have Kent in net, it doesn't hurt," said Hansen. "He played phenomenal."

Although the Gophers found a way to win on Friday, Don Lucia understands that Minnesota will have to play a more complete game on Saturday if they want to take home the series sweep at the National Hockey Center.

"We did enough to win. We're going to have to do more going up there to win tomorrow."

Gopher Illustrated Top Stories