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Men's hockey: Gritty Minnesota shows survival skills

The Gophers aren't quite road kill yet. Somehow, the Minnesota Gophers mustered enough grit and energy to slow a steamrolling UND men's hockey team Saturday night to live another day. And that's all Minnesota wanted. Three power-play goals and on...

The Gophers aren't quite road kill yet.

Somehow, the Minnesota Gophers mustered enough grit and energy to slow a steamrolling UND men's hockey team Saturday night to live another day.

And that's all Minnesota wanted.

Three power-play goals and one empty-netter helped Minnesota avoid its earliest season exit in 26 years as the Gophers beat UND 4-2 at Ralph Engelstad Arena to tie the WCHA best-of-three series at one game apiece. Game 3 between the rivals is scheduled for tonight.

Minnesota still needs a win tonight to keep its season alive. UND's chances of reaching the NCAA playoffs still appear to be strong, even after the loss. But the Sioux don't want to take any chances and leave their selection in the hands of a committee.

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Suddenly, a Minnesota season that seemed doomed after the Gophers were bombed 6-0 by UND a night earlier now has some unexpected momentum.

"We pushed back a little tonight," Minnesota coach Don Lucia said.

And Minnesota goalie Alex Kangas, who has had more than one rough outing in Grand Forks during his career, led the charge.

Kangas finished with 41 saves, a far better showing than the previous night when he was pulled after two periods.

"We knew we were pretty pathetic (Friday) night, especially in the first period," Kangas said. "It wasn't a pretty video session today. But when we come out to play, we can be a pretty good team.

"We came out ready tonight. We put a good game plan together and executed it."

There were a few moments in the third period, however, that may have felt like Friday night to the Gophers.

Matt Frattin's one-timer from the slot gave the Sioux a 2-1 lead at 10:44 and brought another sellout crowd at the Ralph to its feet.

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But the Gophers tied the game at 2-2 on Jacob Cepis' power-play goal at 12:10 and the Gophers took the lead for good on Seth Helgeson's first career goal at 12:58.

"They had all the momentum and we could have easily folded," Kangas said. "Getting that power play was huge."

Helgeson was a healthy scratch on Friday night.

Kangas also got into the scoring, picking up an assist on Jordan Schroeder's empty-netter with one second to play.

After Friday night's blowout loss, the Gophers didn't go into panic mode or have any special meetings.

"The guys have responded like this, for the most part, all year," Lucia said. "It reminded me of Thanksgiving weekend when we played very poorly at Michigan and came back and beat Michigan State on Saturday. For whatever reason, we play better on Saturdays all year long."

But the play of Kangas stood out, no matter the day.

"Alex played real well and gave us a chance. And the first period was very important in that we didn't get behind. We gave away some goals (Friday) night."

Wayne Nelson is the sports editor at the Herald.


He has been with the Grand Forks Herald since 1995, serving as the UND football and basketball beat writer as well as serving as the sports editor.



He is a UND graduate and has been writing sports since the late 1970s.



Follow him on Twitter @waynenelsongf. You can reach him at (701) 780-1268 or wnelson@gfherald.com.
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