Myers: Gophers 'can't have a full stomach after winning one game'
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MINNEAPOLIS -- An advanced degree in mathematics was hardly needed to know that the Gophers had numbers on their side on Friday.
Minnesota Duluth had played perhaps its best middle period of the season, out-shooting a surprised-looking Gophers team by a wide margin, and rallying from 2-0 down to forge a 3-3 tie after 40 minutes. The scoreboard watchers who noted St. Cloud State leading after one period at Colorado College were sensing a faint odor of upset in the air.
But if you read the numbers, they shouldn't have been worried. Indeed, the Gophers' 5-3 victory came via a pair of late goals - one of them into an empty net - which was perfectly in keeping with recent trends for their opponents. The Bulldogs, who last won a game on Jan. 18, have now been out-scored 15-1 in their third period of their last eight games.
It was a happy ending to a game that, through the first 40 minutes, had been frustrating for the Gophers.
"Sometimes you get a 2-0 lead and it's game over. I never felt that way tonight," Gophers coach Don Lucia said. "It was one of those games where they were doing plenty to be in the game or ahead, but we just made a couple plays that we finished on. The score was indicative of the way the game was played, because they were right there until the end."
Finishing plays, at least one of note, was the specialty of sophomore wing Sam Warning on Friday, as the speedy talent from suburban St. Louis weaved and toe-dragged his way through what seemed like six or seven Bulldogs en route to the net, where he slipped a shot past goalie Matt McNeely to give the Gophers a 3-2 lead, for a time.
"What can you say? I just gave him a high five," said Warning's linemate Erik Haula, who scored twice himself. "Highlight-reel goal."
Haula admitted there's some post-game checking to see how rivals for the WCHA crown did as soon as the games end, but since all they can control is what happens on their own bench and on their own shifts, the focus is inward.
"We can't be happy. We can't have a full stomach after winning one game," Haula said. "We have to be a little pissed off with the way we played in the first and second period and come out harder tomorrow."
The message was similar in the other locker room, where Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin praised rookie forward Austin Farley for his two goals, but added that there are no moral victories to be had for a team in desperate need of a win, any way they can find it. His team made a rousing comeback, but in the end left it unfulfilled via another third period letdown.
"Down 2-0, down 3-2, against a team like that, but that's not good enough," Sandelin said. In freshmen like Farley and linemate Tony Cameranesi, there's some promise for the future in Duluth. But the present is anything but rewarding. "We're not satisfied with that, being close. We played well enough to win a hockey game. Tomorrow night we've got to come and play a 60-minute game."
If not the Gophers - now 13-2-2 at home - will be glad to point out the visitors' shortcomings, mathematical or otherwise.