Minneapolis, MN – On an evening when the Minnesota Golden Gophers unveiled their 2015-16 Big 10 championship banner, the Huskies spoiled the celebration with an unlikely comeback and a 6-5 overtime win at Mariucci Arena. Despite falling behind by a score of 5-2 early in the third period and being outshot 31-20 at one point in the contest, the Huskies persevered and capped the game with an overtime goal by Jake Wahlin at 2:53 of the overtime session for a crazy but exciting win in the first game of the weekend series.
SCSU got off to a good start in the contest outshooting the Gophers 3-0 and carrying the play early with good puck control and flow to the game. However, the Gophers earned the only goal of the first period when Vinnie Lettieri (Bridstedt | Pitlick) banged in a rebound off a backhanded shot by Leon Bristedt at 12:10 of the period for a 1-0 lead. The period ended with an advantage in shots on goal for the Gophers by a 11-9 margin but with scoring chances equal at 4-4 and a 7-4 edge in faceoffs by SCSU. Both teams were unsuccessful on the man-advantage with the Gophers 0/2 and SCSU 0/1.
The Gophers added to their lead at 1:08 of period two on a goal by Tyler Sheehy (Novak | Johnson). Novak made a quick pass from the back wall to Sheehy who backhanded it past Jeff Smith for a 2-0 lead. The Huskies responded with a power play goal at 2:20 by Judd Peterson (Schuldt | Newell) his first of three on the evening. Schuldt took a shot from the point that was deflected by Peterson to narrow the score to 2-1. SCSU then got themselves in penalty trouble and the Gophers capitalized with two man-advantage goals. First, Leon Bristedt (Lettieri | Pitlick) scored off a goalmouth feed from Vinnie Litteri for a 3-1 advantage. Then, at 14:38, again on the power play, Mike Szmatula, the Northeastern transfer, scored his first goal as a Gopher at 14:38.A shot from the point by Jake Bischoff was gloved then dropped by Smith and Szmatula buried the loose puck for a 4-1 lead. But, the Huskies halved the lead on Judd Peterson’s (Wahlin) second goal of the game at 17:11. Jake Wahlin made a nice play knocking down a Gopher pass and chipping it forward while falling to Peterson who scored off his own rebound for a 4-2 game. The Huskies were outshot 18-9 in the period mainly as a result of three man-advantage opportunities awarded to the Gophers that period.
Minnesota then took what appeared to be an insurmountable lead in the game at 5-2 on a goal by Tommy Novak (Sheehy | Bischoff) at 2:34 of the third period. Just as a Husky power play expired a rush up ice by the Gophers had Novak beating Smith glove-side high for another three-goal lead. Following the goal with 17:24 remaining in the period and after being beat for five goals, Smith was pulled in favor of Zach Driscoll. The Huskies fortunes seemed to change after the SCSU coaching staff took a timeout with 12:44 remaining in regulation. The move jump-started the Huskies and they responded with a goal by Jacob Benson (Tedesco | Storm) at 10:23. Storm threaded a pass to Tedesco who fed Benson for a tip-in goal and a 5-3 game. Next, at 13:59, Mikey Eyssimont (Jackson | Newell) scored from a bad angle on the power play to make it a one-goal game at 5-4. Suddenly, the momentum was clearly in the favor of the Huskies and with 2:14 remaining in the contest, the SCSU coaching staff made the decision to pull Driscoll for the extra attacker. The move paid off as Judd Peterson (Winiecki | Newell) scored his third goal of the game with 1:13 remaining to tie the score at 5-5. Blake Winiecki fed Peterson from behind the goal and he beat Scheirhorn to send the game to overtime. In a period highly tilted in SCSU’s favor, the Huskies outshot Minnesota 18-5 in the period scoring three times to tie the game at 5-5. Zach Driscoll, who replaced Smith only saw two shots on goal in four minutes of play.
The overtime session was decided at 2:53 on a goal by first-year forward Jake Wahlin. With the Gophers Ryan Collins whistled for interference, Motzko showed great confidence in his first-year players with three of them on the ice on the man-advantage. And, all three figured in the game-winning goal with Wahlin starting a three-way pass to Cholowski and then to Ahcan who sent a rink wide pass back to Wahlin who wristed a shot into a wide open net from the right circle for the overtime winner.
The Huskies recovered from being outshot at one point in the game by a 31-20 margin to outshooting Minnesota 41-34 for the game. Gopher netminder Eric Schierhorn stopped 35/41 shots on goal while SCSU starter Jeff Smith turned aside 27/32. Zach Driscoll was only counted on to make two saves on two shots on goal in a little over five minutes of play. For the game, the Huskies converted 3/5 man-advantage opportunities while the Gophers were 2/5 on the power play. Judd Peterson led the Huskies with a three-goal night while Jake Wahlin had the game winner and was 1-1-2. Patrick Newell had three assists on the evening.
The teams change venues for the Saturday rematch with the game moving to the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center and an 8:05 PM CT puck drop. Game links are here.
Stars of the game: Wahlin (SCSU) | Peterson (SCSU) | Sheehy (UMN)