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Gophers Hockey: Minnesota shuts out Northeastern for first victory of the season

Gopher goaltender Eric Schierhorn made 23 saves for his first career shutout and freshmen Tommy Novak and Tyler Sheehy each scored their first collegiate goal.

Eric Schierhorn made 23 saves Friday for the Gophers, including 3 breakaways.
Eric Schierhorn made 23 saves Friday for the Gophers, including 3 breakaways.
Matt Christians/SBN College Hockey

MINNEAPOLIS- The young guns stepped up Friday for Minnesota on both ends of the ice.

Freshmen goaltender Eric Schierhorn made one pad save, denying Northeastern's Colton Saucerman his second goal of the season in the closing seconds of a second period stretch where the Huskies had nearly six minutes of power play time. Then he stopped Sam Kurker on a wraparound, going from his left to the right.

"Tonight was his best game yet. I think (Schierhorn) bailed out every line at least once," said sophomore defenseman Jack Glover.

By the time he stopped a breakaway on the same shift, his second out of three Friday, the crowd at Mariucci Arena couldn't hold back their applause, roaring in approval while play continued for the first time this season.

That wasn't the only first Schierhorn and the rest of the Gophers accomplished. The fans had some practice earlier, yelling the Rouser after career-first goals by freshmen Tommy Novak and Tyler Sheehy.

Looking for offense and the team's first win after a 0-3 start, Minnesota scored three goals in the first period en route to a 4-0 victory over Northeastern.

"It feels really good," said junior forward Hudson Fasching. "We're getting our wheels going a little bit in these first couple games. We're trying to mesh together as a team. And I think one of the things we're trying to focus upon right away is building our team, building the right habits.

"I think that started to show tonight."

Freshmen played a key role in the win, scoring two of the three goals after the Gophers (1-3-0, 0-0-0-0 Big Ten) went the opening three games with only a single goal to show. Glover, who spent part of last season as a forward, added his first career goal as well after jumping up and taking advantage of a soft play on a one-timer.

"It's nice to get that first one out of the way," said Minnesota head coach Don Lucia. "We hung in there. (Northeastern) has some skilled forwards that are hard to handle. We blocked some shots and kept battling defensively with the young guys."

Minnesota's barrage of three goals in the opening four shots against Northeastern (1-3-0, 0-0-0 Hockey East) began in a spot the team has struggled throughout the opening three games: the power play. Entering Friday's game 0-12 with the man advantage, Justin Kloos had his shot go off the post. Novak, however, was there on the doorstep - a place the Gophers struggled to get in their two losses to Duluth last weekend - and  tapped the puck in for his first collegiate goal 6:48 into the game.

"We were talking about it in the locker room; let's go back here with a lead," Fasching said. "That's something we have been wanting to do for a while, we wanted to be putting goals into the back of the net, and it was good to be able to do that."

Glover made it 2-0 two minutes later before Sheehy scored his first collegiate goal. Freshman Jack Sadek, playing in his first game, kept the puck in the offensive zone before finding Sheehy on the other

Sheehy's goal spelt the end of Roy's night. He was replaced by Ryan Ruck, who allowed only a goal by Fasching in the final minutes on 22 shots faced.

Ruck's counterpart Schierhorn began the game with a glove save on Dylan Sikura and ended with23 saves and his first career shutout. Schierhorn stood out, shutting down Northeastern's leading scorer Kevin Roy on a breakaway. The Huskies had a pair of two-man advantages it was unable to convert as the game slowed throughout the final forty minutes for both teams.

"There's a lot of things that we still have to clean up (defensively)," said Lucia, whose team gave Northeastern six power play opportunities. "Taking care of the puck, you can't give up three breakaways. (Kevin Roy) is the last guy you want to see going down on a breakaway."

Maybe it was getting comfortable or the extra teaching and video that Lucia and his staff have done. The young players were not hesitant to make plays. It was not just Schierhorn, as good as he looked. It wasn't pretty at times defensively. Tonight looked like a team building a foundation and house, as Fasching put it.

"We're three weeks into this. We have a long ways to go with this group," said Lucia.

Minnesota and Northeastern conclude the series Saturday at 8:00 p.m. CT. Fox Sports North televises the game.

Other notes:

-Ruck may have had the save of the year already.

-Justin Kloos is probably owed some hockey karma between the post and Ruck's save. At the very least it was a night of spectacular saves on both sides.

-Jack Sadek made his season debut Friday in place of Steve Johnson, who will miss the next 2-4 weeks with a lower body injury suffered in practice on Wednesday. Lucia said after the game the injury to Johnson was a non-contact one.

-Lucia on Sadek: "I thought Jack Sadek did a great job stepping up ... for his first college hockey game coming right out of Lakeville North high school, that's what I would think. The stage should be big, winning a state title last year at the Xcel. He made a nice play on the one goal and I think he got more confidence as the game went on."

-Ryan Reilly also made his season debut, replacing A.J. Michaelson in the lineup

-Minnesota's lines were different tonight. Lucia gave Jack Ramsey a chance on the first line with a reunited Taylor Cammarata and Kloos. He also had Vinni Lettieri play center, which the junior finished Saturday's game against Minnesota Duluth.

-Final shots were 26-23 Gophers. Attempts were 54-49 Minnesota. The Gophers had 11 even-strength chances in high-chance areas and scored twice.

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Nathan Wells is a college hockey columnist for SB Nation mostly covering both the University of Minnesota and Big Ten. You can also follow him on Twitter --