Minnesota looked nearly unbeatable after their two blowout wins over Michigan State last weekend, but a tough road trip to Houghton to take on Michigan Tech brought them back down to Earth. The Huskies skated to a relatively easy 5-3 win over the top-ranked Gophers to win their first WCHA game of the season.
Here is the box score from the game.
I watched this game on TV, so here were a couple of my thoughts:
My one big question mark coming into this season for Minnesota was if their defense could cut down on the number of odd man rushes their defense gave up last year, or, if their pair of new goalies could cover up those mistakes as well as Kent Patterson. They didn't get either in the first half of their game against Michigan Tech.
Looking at Michigan Tech's first four goals:
-Alex Petan scores on a 2-on-1. A nice shot, but with how slow the play developed, I have a feeling Patterson would have cut down the angle a little more and made the save.
- Ryan Furne scores a power play goal on a penalty drawn by Alex Petan after he had beaten Brady Skjei. Skjei took the penalty rather than giving up an odd man rush.
- A 2-on-1 off a defensive breakdown led to an easy Tech goal.
-Nate Schmidt misplayed a puck, allowing Chad Pietila to come in all alone and bury a shot high.
The fifth goal came off a bad turnover from the defense in their own zone as well. It may seem weird to say this, but Michigan Tech has the offensive firepower to punish Minnesota on those types of mistakes more than most teams, but that should still be an area of concern for Minnesota going forward. There's a lot of offensive firepower on their blue line, but they're still very mistake prone.
In a similar vein, Nate Schmidt made a crafty pinch to score Minnesota's first goal of the night, and for anyone that didn't watch the game, it looks like he had a pretty decent night, but that wasn't a great play on Tech's fourth goal, which proved to be a real back-breaker for the Gophers.
It's really amazing how quickly Michigan Tech has transitioned into a very fast team. Mel Pearson doesn't have all of his own guys at Tech yet, but the freshmen he's added like Alex Petan and CJ Eick give a hint at the type of speed Tech is going to have going forward.
Nate Condon made a sweet move to set up Minnesota's first goal, and did some nice things on the penalty kill. He's a guy that I've thought was very underrated as a pro prospect, and expect him to be a big key for the Gophers this year.
As if we needed a reminder this last year of the old WCHA is going to be a fun one, what a way to start conference play. Even if Minnesota travels to Houghton in the future, which they won't, how much would a game like this have meant if it wasn't for conference play. This game was a great example of what college hockey is, or at least should be, about.