MINNEAPOLIS- For a game featuring two of the top six offenses in college hockey, Friday night’s game – the last Friday WCHA home game for Minnesota – was set up to be an offensive bonanza on paper.
On paper. On the ice it turned out to be anything but one.
Shawn Ostrow scored his 11th goal of the season 18 seconds into the third period and Ty Loney added an empty netter as Denver defeated the Gophers 2-0 at Mariucci Arena. Juho Olkinuora made 33 saves and became the first goaltender to shut out the Gophers since Alaska-Anchorage’s Chris Kamal did so March 12, 2011.
Adam Wilcox made 34 saves (one off his career-high) for Minnesota in defeat. The Gophers went 0-5 on the power play to fall to 1 for 16 with the man advantage over the last 4 games.
With the win, their 9th in 11th games over Minnesota, the Pioneers keep pace with Wisconsin for the final home-ice. The Gophers fall to third-place behind St. Cloud State and North Dakota while seeing their chances of a second straight MacNaughton Cup fade further away. The Huskies defeated Michigan Tech 5-3 and lead their in-state rivals by 4 points with 3 regular season games left.
What I saw:
-Neither team had any urgency in the first period and it made for a quick and boring opening 20 minutes. Although Denver out-shot the Gophers 10-4 there were no Grade A chances and both goaltenders were untested. The sluggish start is interesting to see as Minnesota was sloppy early on for the second straight Friday.
-Denver’s penalty kill was on the ice too much but made the most of it. The Pioneers were aggressive in their setup – leaving little time for Minnesota to set up – and used it to create odd-man shorthanded chances. They out-shot the Gophers 8-2 while down a man not including Kyle Rau hitting the crossbar.
What I thought:
-It’s difficult to imagine Minnesota’s top line of Kyle Rau, Nick Bjugstad and Zach Budish having an off night, but that was entirely the case Friday night. Between missed passes, failed chances on odd-man rushes and the power play. they had the chemistry of a turkey sub and a hubcap…two things that have do not go together.
-Olkinuora made the big saves when he had to yet I wouldn’t say that he was tested that much. That isn’t to take anything away from Olkinuora because he played well and along with the Pioneers D deserved the win. It just goes back to the previous thought where between the top-six there were few Grade A chances.
If one shot opportunity summed up the evening it was Bjugstad whiffing on a one-timer in front of the net with less than two minutes remaining. 9 times out of 10 he makes that shot and ties the game. This was the one.
-Ostrow’s goal went off a skate. At the same time, it was a very fitting way for Denver to score the game’s lone contested goal because they were the better team in getting into the dirty areas. A shot by Zac Larraza went to Ty Loney in front of the net and went off Ostrow, who was also in front of the net. It wasn’t pretty but that didn’t matter.
What they said:
Minnesota head coach Don Lucia on his top line: “They weren’t in the same area code. I thought our 3’s and 4’s (bottom-six) had better energy and more effort than the top. That’s unusual. I’ve said it all year that we really haven’t had a game where we just weren’t good. Tonight we did.”
Lucia on talking to his players after the game: “They got an earful. They might not feel better but I do.”
Lucia on Denver “”They don’t beat themselves. They’re content to play a game like this; especially on the road.
Gophers captain Zach Budish on Friday’s performance: “We’re embarrassed. We deserved to be booed tonight. From top to bottom we just weren’t good.”
Budish on the playoffs: “Games get tougher in the month of March. It’s pretty much playoff hockey from here on out. We got to figure it out pretty quick here and come back tomorrow and re-group. It’s basically up to us as players to make sure we’re ready to go and play a full 60 minutes and create more offense.”
What they didn’t say:
-When asked about any changes tomorrow, Lucia dodged the question.
-Minnesota met after the game as a team for a solid 20 minutes.
-Friday night was the third shutout of the year for Denver and first since a 3-0 win over Minnesota-Duluth on February 1.
-Attendance was 10,094
-The Gophers were out-shot at home for the first time this season and only the third time overall. They had out-shot every opponent since November 3rd against Minnesota State; a span of 26 games.