Myers: Getting 50 shots stopped didn't stall Gophers in playoff opener
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Every hockey team fears meeting a hot opposing goalie in the playoffs. But if you can survive the encounter and triumph anyway, all is well.
All was not necessarily well on Friday at Mariucci Arena, and all was certainly not pretty, when that aforementioned hot goalie did his best to keep an overly plucky, but not overly deep or talented Bemidji State team in the game. The Gophers needed overtime, and more than 50 shots on goal, to win their WCHA playoff opener 2-1.
Beavers sophomore Andrew Walsh, whose flowing dark hair, beard and facial features give him a striking resemblance to a man lots of folks say prayers to on Sundays, gave new meaning to the term "Jesus Saves" in the Gophers playoff opener. Walsh stopped 50 Gophers shots in the game, but the two shots that eluded him were the trouble.
Still, it took 60 minutes of regulation time and another 13 minutes of overtime to get that elusive second shot behind Walsh. The overtime winner came when Kyle Rau hovered around the top of the crease - a place he spends so much time that he may be charged rent soon - got off a shot that was blocked, then got his own rebound and slid the puck past Walsh, ending the Gophers longest game of the season.
"No negativity" was the key in the locker room between regulation and overtime, said Gophers forward Ben Marshall, who scored in the second period what looked to be the winning goal, until Brance Orban tied it for the Beavers with their net empty and less than a minute to play in the third.
"We knew the whole game we were out-playing them and we just figured keep doing what we were doing and bounces will come our way," said Marshall, who admitted that Walsh had them reeling for a time. "Yeah, it got frustrating. Of course it did. Tip your hat to him, he played unreal tonight."
Gophers goalie Adam Wilcox faced just 18 shots in three-plus periods, but kept the score tied during a few Beavers rushes in overtime, where the visitors were dangerously close to taking a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three playoff series.
"It was going to take a rebound goal to beat them," Gophers coach Don Lucia said. "I thought both goalies were sharp. Adam obviously didn't have as much work but he had to make a couple timely saves."
Last weekend in Bemidji, Walsh stood tall in the Gophers come-from-behind on Friday, but got the night off on Saturday, as Beavers coach Tom Serratore played upperclassman Mathieu Dugas on Senior Night. The coach said there will be no such sentiments in game two of the playoff series, as the Beavers will ride the hot hand, and try once again to steal a game at Mariucci.
"It was a good hockey game but we've got to forget about it," Serratore said. "We've still got a game (on Saturday) and that's just the way it is with playoff hockey. It stings, but you've just got to wipe it out of your mind."
A Bemidji State win on Saturday would mean the Gophers playing a third and deciding game on Sunday, St. Patrick's Day, versus an opposing team dressed head-to-toe in green. That's clearly something nobody in the home locker room would enjoy.