The Takeaway: Minnesota shuts out Air Force behind Wilcox’s 18 saves

Posted by: Nate Wells

MINNEAPOLIS - On a day that saw Jerry York break the all-time record for college hockey wins, the second game of the Mariucci Classic saw a family affair. Air Force (5-8-3, 4-4-2 AHA) head coach Frank Serratore faced his son, Minnesota junior forward Tom, and it was the Gophers (12-3-3, 6-3-3 WCHA) who came away with a 4-0 win.

It was a team effort for the Gophers on Saturday night. Four different Minnesota players scored, led by two points from Erik Haula (1G-1A) and Nick Bjugstad (2A), and freshman goalie Adam Wilcox made 18 saves for his third shutout of the season. Haula started off the scoring when he banked a shot off of Jason Fabian’s skate 6:58 into the game. That was followed in the second period by Ryan Reilly’s first goal as a Gopher when he roofed in a Christian Isackson pass over Air Force goalie Jason Torf. After a breakaway attempt by Stephen Carew was stopped by Wilcox, third period goals by Minnesota’s Kyle Rau and Nate Condon put the game out of hand for the Falcons.

Minnesota next faces Boston College Sunday at 7 p.m. CT while Air Force goes up against Alabama-Huntsville at 4 p.m in the final day of the Mariucci Classic.

What I saw:

-Ryan Reilly, who has been in and out of Minnesota’s lineup, played his best game as a Gopher. Besides the goal he utilized his speed better than he has in and the freshman forward had noticeable chemistry with center Christian Isackson.

-Air Force’s second line of Kyle De Laurell, Stephen Carew and Cole Gunner clicked. Despite being shut out, they were able to create the majority of chances for the Falcons and had 6 of the team’s 18 shots. It is possible playing in front of family had something to do with it: Carew and Gunner are 2 of 9 Minnesotans on the roster.

-As they have for most of the season, the Gophers controlled puck possession and out-shot their opponent 33-18 (including 24-10 in the first 2 periods). Minnesota has been only been out-shot twice this season.

What I thought:

– Minnesota was at their best when they were able to pester Jason Torf in front of the net. At times the Gophers were cute with their passes and gave away a few opportunities. They were still dominating Air Force but it was not a coincidence that their first three goals were a combined 10 feet.

-Despite the final score, Air Force had chances to keep themselves in the game. The Falcons were down 2-0 entering the third period but had two power plays and the Carew breakaway in the first 7 minutes. Prior to that Wilcox stopped an odd-man rush led by Carew. This could have been a different contest if Air Force was able to take advantage of any of those.

What they said:

Frank Serratore on facing his son: “It was kind of strange. I usually don’t get caught up in stuff but I was a little emotional in warm-ups, when (Tom) started and all that type of thing. I kind of turned into ‘proud father’ mode for a second there and I had to shake my head and snap out of it.”

More Serratore: “We didn’t put a scare in (Minnesota). The script played out the way everyone expected it to. We never won a period.

“You lose 2 offensive zone face-offs, if you are playing baseball; you’ve given them 5 outs.”

Don Lucia on his opponent: “We respected Air Force, what they’ve done the last half-dozen years.”

Ryan Reilly (who is listed as 5’7”, 168 lbs): “I definitely feel more comfortable using my speed. I’m not the biggest guy in the lineup.”

Erik Haula on playing Boston College: “We’ll approach it like they’re the number one team and national champions last year. If you can’t get up for that then…”

What else you should know:

-Air Force defenseman Alex Halloran left the game in the second period with a knee injury. While the extent of the injury was unknown, Serratore told reporters after the game that Halloran would be out for at least 3 weeks.

-Meanwhile, Serratore said that Adam McKenzie should return next week. The junior defenseman has been out since November 23rd.

-Minnesota was missing freshman defenseman Mike Reilly, who currently is in Russia playing for Team USA at the World Juniors.

-Attendance at Mariucci was announced as 10,113.

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