Dec. 30, 2011
Playing for the first time in 20 days, the Minnesota men’s hockey team started the second half of its season strong, defeating Niagara 5-1 at Mariucci Arena on Friday night. The victory put the second-ranked Golden Gophers in the Mariucci Classic championship game against Northeastern of Hockey East on Saturday at 6 p.m.
Without the aid of two of its top scorers, U.S. World Junior Championship team members Nick Bjugstad and Kyle Rau, UM never let go of a lead it took just 1:58 into the opening frame.
Senior forward Nick Larson buried a Jake Parenteau rebound just before the two-minute mark of the first period to give the Gophers a 1-0 lead.
The assist was Parenteau’s first collegiate point. It came in the 26th game of his career and the 18th game of his sophomore season.
The Gophers built on their lead just over a minute after Larson’s tally when another senior, Jake Hansen, converted on a Sam Warning rebound to make it a two-goal game.
Minnesota had several more scoring opportunities before the end of the first period, but Niagara goaltender Cody Campbell kept it a two-goal game through 20 minutes, turning away 15 Gopher shots.
After continuing to pile up chances, UM began to pull away from the Purple Eagles late in the second period.
Sophomore Erik Haula made it 3-0 with his 10th goal of the season at the 15:39 mark of the middle frame. Haula stuffed home his own rebound after receiving a pass from Nate Schmidt, who picked up his NCAA-leading 23rd assist of the year on the marker.
Defenseman Justin Holl got in on the action with 28.1 seconds left in the period, completing a tic-tac-toe play with a redirection goal in front to make it a four-goal game.
Haula moved into to a tie for the team lead in points with 27 by passing the puck to Hansen, who made a one-touch feed to Holl in front of the Niagara cage.
The Purple Eagles got on the board with a goal by Tyler Matthews, who snapped a shot over the shoulder of Minnesota netmider Kent Patterson early in the third.
Zach Budish capped the scoring 6:31 left by finishing off a nice passing play involving Warning and Hansen on the power play.
Hansen finished the night with three points and Patterson turned away 20 of the 21 shots he faced.
The host Gophers move on to the Mariucci Classic championship for the 17th time in 21 years. Facing Northeastern, one of the hottest teams in the country, Minnesota will look for its 13th title and its first since 2008-09, when it beat the Huskies 3-2 in overtime. Northeastern bested Princeton 4-3 in shootout on Friday.
Around the Rink: Connor Reilly
A native of Chanhassen, Minn., Reilly has collected 53 points (23 goals, 30 assists) in 114 career games with the Gophers.
Border Battle on Deck
Friday’s series opener is set for 7 p.m. CT with Saturday’s finale scheduled for 5 p.m.
Lettieri Named B1G Second Star
Lettieri has played in all 20 games this season for the Gophers while ranking tied for second on the team with 11 goals and third on the team with 20 points.