Jan. 3, 2009

Courtesy of Minnesota

Minnesota held Brown to one shot in each of the first two periods and rolled to a 6-2 win over the Bears in the opening game of the Dodge Holiday Classic on Friday at Mariucci Arena.

The fourth-ranked Gophers are now 9-3-5 overall and will face sixth-ranked Northeastern in the title game on Saturday at 7 p.m. Northeastern defeated Western Michigan 3-1 in the other first-round game.

Brown is 1-9-2 overall and finished with 15 shots for the game. The Bears play Western Michigan for consolation on Saturday at 4 p.m. It was the sixth time the two teams have met and Minnesota has outscored the Bears 41-10 in the all-time series.

Minnesota played the game without head coach Don Lucia, who missed the game due to an illness. Lucia, who missed his first game in 22 seasons as a head coach, hopes to return to the team for Saturday’s title game. The Gophers also played without three of their top players in Jordan Schroeder, Cade Fairchild and Mike Hoeffel, who were competing in the World Junior Championships in Ottawa, Canada.

The Gophers’ defense smothered the Bears, holding them to one shot in the first 29 minutes of the game, coming on a dump-in from the blue line by Sean Muncy with 4:57 left in the first period.

Minnesota took the lead at the 7:40 mark of the first period when Mike Carman took a pass from Ryan Flynn at the blueline and wristed a shot past Brown goaltender Dan Rosen for his fifth goal of the season. Jake Hansen also had an assist on the goal, which was the Gophers’ only score in a first period that saw them outshoot the Bears 17-1.

Jay Barriball started a three-goal second period by lofting a shot over Rosen at the 4:16 mark. The goal was set up by a nifty play from defenseman Aaron Ness, who circled around behind the goalline and fed a pass to Barriball in the slot for his sixth goal of the year. David Fischer also assisted the score.

Justin Bostrom gave the Gophers a 3-0 lead with a goal at the 9:38 mark knocking in a puck out of mid-air after Rosen stopped Sam Lofquist’s shot and the puck caromed high into the air. Nick Larson also earned an assist on the play.

Minnesota went ahead 4-0 six minutes later as Nico Sacchetti finished off a flurry of three straight shots for a goal at the 15:36 mark. Kevin Wehrs had the original shot and Bostrom added another on a rebound before the puck bounced to Sacchetti on the other side of the crease for an easy tap-in. Wehrs and Bostrom were both credited with assists as Minnesota held an 18-1 advantage in shots for the period.

Brown got on the board in the third period on its fourth shot of the game when Jordan Pietrus collected a loose puck along the boards and launched a long shot that snuck past Alex Kangas for an unassisted score at the 2:44 mark. The Bears added another goal on a power play goal at the 6:07 mark when Devin Timberlake poked in a rebound of a shot by Jeff Buvinow to cut the lead to 4-2. Brown finished the night one-for-four on the man advantage. The Bears outshot the Gophers 13-7 in the third period as Minnesota finished with a 42-15 advantage for the game.

One of Minnesota’s few negatives of the game was its power play, which entered the game ranked fourth in the country, but failed to score in eight chances. However, the Gophers’ fifth goal came as the Bears’ eighth penalty expired when Patrick White scored off a pass from Wehrs at the 8:52 mark.

Rosen finished with 36 saves for Brown, while Kangas made 13 saves for Minnesota.