Wednesday, January 9, 2013

#1 Minnesota vs. #2 Notre Dame Game Report

We at Third String Goalie attended last night's stellar matchup of the #1 ranked University of Minnesota Golden Gophers of the WCHA hosting the #2 ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish of the CCHA at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis.

With the history of Gopher Hockey dating back to 1922, there's no shortage of banners in Mariucci.

Mariucci Banners, Mariucci Banners

Aside from the #1 vs. #2 matchup, the other interesting scenario was Minnesota head coach Don Lucia's Gophers coaching against his son Mario Lucia, who plays for Notre Dame, which also happens to be Don's alma mater.

Mariucci Anthem, Mariucci Anthem

Play got underway and Minnesota jumped out on top quickly, as Nate Condon scored for the third straight game with a shot from the top of the circle at 1:21 to get the crowd into the game right off the bat.

Just after a Notre Dame penalty expired, there was a scramble in front of the Irish net, which saw bodies falling and sticks flying before Sam Warning picked up a loose puck and fired it past Steven Summerhays for a 2-0 lead just 7:29 into the game.

Goal #2, Goal #2

One of the highlights of the evening was the celebration of the recent gold medal won by the United States at the recent World Junior Championships in Russia, as Gopher Mike Reilly and Notre Dame's Mario Lucia were both members of the United States team. In addition, Gopher assistant coach Grant Potulny, who scored the winning goal in overtime of the 2002 NCAA National Championship final for Minnesota, was on head coach Phil Housley's staff. Of note, this game was originally scheduled for Saturday, January 5th, but was rescheduled until Tuesday the 8th in order to give those participating in the World Juniors time to return for this matchup, particularly so Mario could play against his father Don's Gophers.

The celebration included the unfurling of a gigantic United States flag, which was then passed over the sections on one side of the arena in a very impressive display during a first period TV timeout.

US Flag, US Flag

Once play resumed, Jeff Costello drove to the net and got one through the Gopher's Adam Wilcox to cut the Minnesota lead to 2-1 at 14:31.

Wilcox ND goal, Wilcox ND goal

A penalty against Minnesota following the goal kept the majority of play in the Minnesota end for the remainder of the period.

Long view, Long view

Early in the second period, Minnesota's Christian Isackson found himself alone in front of the Notre Dame goal thanks to some aggressive forececking, and undressed Summerhays with a Pavel Datsyuk-like forehand-to-backhand move at close quarters to restore Minnesota's two goal margin at 3-1 at 5:23.

Isackson goal, Isackson goal

The remainder of the period passed with no scoring and Minnesota holding an edge in shots 10-7 after both teams were even at 8 for the first period. While no additional pucks went in the goal, that's not to say some players didn't end up in the net as the team's fought hard to get the next goal!

In the Net, In the Net

Due to the high rankings of both clubs and the amount of talent on the ice, there were a number of NHL scouts in attendance, all wearing the unofficial scout look of all black all the time.

Scouts, Scouts

As Minnesota looked to add to it's lead and put the game away, Notre Dame fought equally as hard to cut the lead back down to one. The play favored neither team and the shots on goal were even at 8 each for the period, with the highlight of the period being Wilcox's toe save of Notre Dame's Bryan Rust's breakaway four minutes into the period.

Third period action, Third period action

Notre Dame held fast, killing off two penalties during the period, while the Gophers stayed out of the box for the final 20 minutes. With time winding down, the Minnesota student section taunted the Fighting Irish, whose football team had lost in their national championship game the night before, with chants of "ALABAMA".

With 1:24 remaining, Notre Dame pulled Summerhays in a final attempt to get a goal, only to have Zach Budish put the game away for the Gophers with an empty net goal at 19:45 to make the final score 4-1, a great result for Minnesota coming off their dominating 8-1victory over the previous #1 ranked team, Boston College, as Minnesota has now defeated the #1 and #2 ranked teams in the nation over the course of the last ten days.

Minnesota celebrates, Minnesota celebrates

Following the game, the Gophers celebrated their victory over the #2 ranked Fighting Irish and then recognized their fans with their traditional stick salute, capping off a great night at the rink between college hockey's finest.

Salute, Salute

Here are the highlights of the game, including Isackson's goal, easily the play of the game.


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