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Updated: December 11th, 2011 12:08am
Gophers lessen sting from overtime loss with dominant win over Huskies

Gophers lessen sting from overtime loss with dominant win over Huskies

by Nate Sandell
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Stunned by Michigan Tech on Friday, the Gophers rebounded with an emphatic 6-2 victory over the Huskies Saturday, brought on by a four-goal third period.

They were left severely disgruntled in Game 1 when Michigan Tech's overtime goal capped off the Gophers' bland and error-riddled performance. But a restructured lineup and a colorful pre-game practice jumped started the "U" a day later.

"It was the kind of effort we had to have," coach Don Lucia said. "To make the mistakes we did last night I think was biting to our guys. We had a pretty stern meeting with the guys today and I like the way we responded."

The Huskies weren't a pushover, however, putting the Gophers on edge with Daniel Sova's tying power play goal less than two minutes into the third period. The 2-2 draw didn't last though, as the Gophers buried Michigan Tech with four unanswered goals.

Defenseman Mark Alt netted his second goal in two games, and leading-scorer Nick Bjugstad broke a four-game scoreless streak as part of the Gophers' third period rally.

Lucia made drastic changes to his scoring lines. The fourth line from Friday was wiped clean and replaced by  Joe Miller, Christian Isackson and Nico Sacchetti -- all three of whom have played limited minutes this season.

And the switch work. In his first game of the year, senior Joe Miller highlighted a solid night from the fourth line with the Gophers' fifth goal.

"I felt like a little kid again," Miller said. "It's been a while since I've played. It was just great to help the team win and contribute."

The skinny

The Gophers exuded aggression that was absent Friday soon after the opening face-off,

"I thought we came out with better energy mentally," Lucia said. "We've played so well in second games and third periods, so part of it is mental."

Michigan Tech goaltender Josh Robinson was berated early on by the Gophers' offensive attack, and for the fourth straight game they scored first.

Alt, who finished the weekend with five points (two goals, three assists), launched a shot on goal from left of the net, catching streaking left wing Kyle Rau on his pads just in front of Robinson. Rau quickly made a move with the puck and got Robinson to dive for the would-be stop. With the Huskies goalie sprawled out on the ice, Rau deftly lifted the puck into the open net.

But as they did the night before, the Huskies weren't far behind with an answer.

Gophers' freshman Seth Ambroz was in the penalty box for an unsportsmanlike call, giving Michigan Tech the man-advantage for the second of three times on the night. Milos Gordic sent in the puck off a primed slap shot that caromed off Patterson and bounced in front of the net. Huskies' winger Jordan Baker knocked in the rebound for the tying power play goal.

For the next 14 minutes carrying into the second period, the two squads fell into a back-and-effort, with the Gophers holding a slight edge in shots. The "U" retook the lead when senior Jake Hansen tipped a shot from Erik Haula past Robinson for the first of his two goals.

Michigan Tech's best opportunity to level the score came after defenseman Blake Thompson was ejected for a contact to the head, leaving the Gophers to kill off a five-minute major penalty.

The penalty carried over into the third period, and the Gophers were less than a minute away from being back at full strength when Michigan Tech's Daniel Sova banked in the equalizing a goal 1:26 into the period.

But momentum didn't linger on the Huskies' side as the Gophers went on to score four straight goals, starting with Alt's one-timer.

Numbers game

0: Losses by the Gophers on Saturday this season (8-0-1).

9-2: Gophers' record at Mariucci Arena this season

5: Power play goals given up by the Gophers in their last four games. Three of Michigan Tech's five goals on the weekend came off the "U" penalty kill.

Overheard

"I personally thought it was awesome."

-- Miller, addressing the final three minutes of the game when tempers flared between both teams, setting off a heated verbal and physical exchange.

Summary

First period

• Gophers -- Kyle Rau (12), assisted by Mark Alt (8) and Taylor Matson (8), 7:37. Gophers 1, Huskies 0

• Michigan Tech -- Jordan Baker (4) on the power play, assisted by Milos Gordic and Daniel Sova (8), 16:35. Gophers 1, Huskies 1

Second period

• Gophers -- Jake Hansen (7) on the power play, assisted by Erik Haula (15) and Kyle Rau (9), 12:50. Gophers 2, Huskies 1

Third period

• Michigan Tech -- Daniel Sova (2) on the power play, assisted by Ryan Sweeney (1) and Tanner Kero (4), 1:26. Gophers 2, Huskies 2

• Gophers -- Mark Alt (4), assisted by Nate Schmidt (18) and Kyle Rau (10), 3:30. Gophers 3, Huskies 2

• Gophers -- Nick Bjugstad (16), assisted by Nate Schmidt (19) and Seth Helgeson (5), 9:59. Gophers 4, Huskies 2

• Gophers - Joe Miller (1), assisted by Mark Alt (9), 12:03. Gophers 5, Huskies 2

• Gophers -- Jake Hansen (8) on the power play, assisted by Erik Haula (16) and Nate Schmidt (20)

Three stars

1. Mark Alt
2. Kyle Rau
3. Nate Schmidt

Coming up

Twenty days separate the Gophers from their next game. They return from Winter break on Dec. 30 (7 p.m. 1500 ESPN) to face Niagara in the first round of the four-team Mariucci Classic.

"I think we all feel pretty good right now that when the first half ends we've got a piece of first place," Lucia said.

Nate Sandell is a contributor to 1500ESPN.com.
Email Nate | @nsandell
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