Ice Breaker: Minnesota comes back to beat New Hampshire 3-2

University of Minnesota goalie made 46 of 48 saves this weekend - Minnesota Athletics

Vinni Lettieri's first collegiate goal was the difference as the Gophers came back twice to defeat New Hampshire 3-2. Minnesota claims the 2013 Ice Breaker Tournament title and opens 2-0 for the fourth straight season.

The first period of Saturday's Ice Breaker Tournament final between #5 Minnesota and #13 New Hampshire was all filler. The second was anything but.

All five goals in Minnesota's (2-0-0) 3-2 victory over the Wildcats at Mariucci Arena were scored in the second period. Freshman Vinni Lettieri's first collegiate goal with 2:10 left in the middle frame proved to be the difference as the Gophers came back twice to beat New Hampshire and claim the 2013 Ice Breaker Tournament title.

Hudson Fasching (Los Angeles Kings draft pick) and Sam Warning also scored for the home team. Justin Holl (Chicago Blackhawks) had two assists.

"I liked the way we played tonight," Gopher head coach Don Lucia said after the game. "I thought that especially 5x5 we did a good job. I think we managed the game very well. We knew it was going to be the type of game where a mistake could cost you.

Neither team wanted to make a mistake early against top-15 competition. The Gophers were content to use speed to beat the Wildcat's size. Five of New Hampshire's six defensemen playing Saturday were 6'2" or taller. UNH goalie Casey DeSmith and Minnesota goaltender Adam Wilcox (Tampa Bay Lightning) were not tested besides a single power play chance by both sides.

"We could have gotten a few more pucks to the net, a little more traffic," said Minnesota junior forward Seth Ambroz. "Once we did that I felt we had more pucks on net."

That changed in the second.

New Hampshire began the second period with 1:51 of power play time. They only needed 25 seconds to score. Senior defenseman Eric Knodel's shot from the point went past teammate Grayson Downing's stick and beat Wilcox to give the Wildcats a 1-0 lead.

Fasching responded 3:50 later for his first collegiate goal. The Burnsville, MN native was on the doorstep to clean up when DeSmith, who made 31 saves Saturday, didn't cleanly catch Justin Holl's shot.

The Wildcats broke the tie with 8:30 left in the second. Nick Sorkin tipped a Trevor van Riemsdyk shot past Wilcox for his first goal of the season. That lead only lasted 77 seconds as Sam Warning battled back to score his second in as many nights (and the second odd-angle Gopher goal in as many nights). It was followed by Lettieri finding a seam in DeSmith's positioning for the game winner.

"Vinni made a nice play and a goal. He's not afraid to shoot," Lucia said. "It's nice to see freshmen get their first goal."

Minnesota played well during the period even strength while the Wildcats dominated special teams. UNH was out-shot 14-3 in the second (34-23 overall). Two of those shots were power play goals. Several more scoring opportunities happened shorthanded during the Gophers' 3 second period power plays.

"The second period was obviously the difference in the game," New Hampshire head coach Dick Umile said. "(Minnesota) out-shot us in the second period and got a couple goals to jump ahead of us."

New Hampshire was without 2012-13 leading scorer Kevin Goumas, who left Friday's 4-1 win over Clarkson in the first period with an injury. Still, the Wildcats threatened in the third period. Van Riemsdyk had a couple opportunities on the power play

However, Adam Wilcox saved the best of his 21 saves for last.

With DeSmith on the bench and the Wildcats having an extra attacker,Dalton Speelman had the entire net open in the game's final ten seconds. Somehow Wilcox moved from right to left to deny Speelman from sending the Ice Breaker final to overtime with 7.3 seconds remaining.

Wilcox's save brought the announced crowd of 9,277 to their feet.

"Adam didn't have to make a lot of saves, but like he always does he makes that crucial one late in the game," said Lucia.

So far so good.

Minnesota next travels to Bemidji State for a non-conference series October 18-19 at the Sanford Center. Friday's game begins at 7:30 p.m. CT while Saturday's starts at 7:00 p.m. Both games will be broadcast on Fox Sports North.

Other notes:
-Clarkson defeated Mercyhurst 5-2 in the Ice Breaker consolation game.

-All six players from the Ice Breaker All-Tournament team played in Saturday night's championship game. Warning was named MVP with two goals and two assists.

-Justin Holl had two assists for the first time since October 13, 2012 against Michigan State.

-Holl, who moved back to defense after being a forward last year, said after the game that returning to the blue line has been natural for him so far. He added, "I'm excited to be there."

-Minnesota is 11-1-2 against New Hampshire in their last 14 games against the Wildcats.

-Minnesota won the Ice Breaker for the second straight time they appeared in it. The Gophers were champions in 2007 after defeating Michigan in the championship game.

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Nathan Wells is a college hockey columnist for SB Nation and College Hockey News. You can also follow him on Twitter -- 

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