There's nothing like an exhibition game to get things right.
And even though the team the Minnesota Gophers defeated 7-1 Thursday, Latvia-HC Riga 2000, is one of the better club teams in Latvia, the Gophers didn't seem to believe so.
Five different Gophers had multi-point games, and Minnesota goaltender Justin Johnson made 27 saves to lead the Maroon and Gold to its fifth consecutive win in exhibition contests.
The Gophers took a 2-0 lead after the first period on two nice passing plays in the game's first six minutes. At 2:32, senior captain Grant Potulny threaded a pass across the slot to Brett MacKinnon who knocked the puck into the open net past Riga goaltender Edgars Masalskis. Defenseman Joey Martin gained the second assist on the scoring play.
Three minutes later, Danny Irmen made it 2-0 with his marker on the power play. Matt Koalska made a great pass to find Irmen behind the Riga defensemen at the blue line, allowing the freshman forward to streak in alone and beat a sprawling Masalskis with a low backhander. Andy Sertich was credited with the second assist on the play. For the period, Minnesota out-shot Riga 2000, 16-8.
The Golden Gophers added to their lead in the second period, out-scoring the Latvians, 3-1 to take a 5-1 lead. At 3:51, defenseman Chris Harrington scored with a shot from the point that beat Masalskis via the five-hole. Jerrid Reinholz got the single assist. At 8:09, Riga 2000 cut the Minnesota advantage back to two with Oleksandr Panchenko goal off of a 3-on-2 rush. Panchenko went high to Johnson's glove side to make the score 3-1.
The Maroon and Gold scored twice in the final four minutes, beginning at 16:15 with a nice play that culminated in a goal by Troy Riddle. Irmen found Riddle flying into the Riga zone and fed the senior assistant captain, who went to the top shelf to light the lamp. Harrington gained the second assist on the play. At 19:03, Minnesota made it 5-1 when Matt Koalska knocked a puck out of mid-air on a pass from Riddle. Harrington picked up his third point of the night with the second assist. For the period, UM out-shot Riga, 12-8.
The third period was more of the same, with Potulny opening the stanza's scoring with a quick wrist shot to beat new Riga goaltender Edvins Silavnjeks at 8:03. Junior defenseman Keith Ballard gained the lone assist on the play. Finally, at 10:42, Irmen scored his second goal of the game with assists going to Koalska and Riddle.
Minnesota out-shot Riga 2000, 33-28, in the game. Irmen was awarded the star of the game award with two goals and an assist. Harrington, Koalska and Riddle each picked up a goal and two assists, with Potulny tallying a goal and assist to wrap up UM's multi-point scorers.
The Gophers take the upcoming weekend off to prepare for finals before resuming regular-season play Saturday-Sunday, Dec. 20-21, in the Dodge Holiday Classic at Mariucci Arena.
Minnesota meets Princeton at 7:05 p.m., on Saturday, with New Hampshire and Miami (Ohio) facing off at 4:05 p.m. The Gophers will play at 7:05 p.m. on Sunday in either the third-place or championship game.
Gophers dominate in exhibition game
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