Do pucks fly faster in the mountains?
Because in the Rocky Mountain air, nine different Gophers skaters scored 13 goals and the Gophers swept Colorado College on the road, 4-1 Friday and 9-4 Saturday. It was Minnesota’s first sweep in nearly a year.
Rarer than the sweep, however, were the nine goals the Gophers scored Saturday. It was November 2005 the last time they pulled off the elusive nanotuple.
And those nine came from all sorts of players, some familiar faces, some new to the 2010-11 score sheet.
“It was certainly not expected,” head coach Don Lucia said of the widespread offensive barrage. “We needed other guys [than the first line] to step up, and all the lines contributed tonight, which is nice.”
A couple contributors were seniors almost guaranteed to break out eventually; defenseman Cade Fairchild and winger Patrick White scored their firsts of the season. Fairchild did so shorthanded at the end of a brilliant individual effort by Nate Condon.
Actually, most all of Saturday night was a brilliant individual effort by Condon. The freshman scored twice and had three assists in the most prolific game of his young career. He provided the latter half of Minnesota’s four-goal second period with a pair of right-place-right-time mop-ups. Sometimes that’s what being a center is about, and Condon has shown a proclivity this season for being well-positioned.
But Condon wasn’t the only center to leave a mark on the Tigers.
Major injuries shortened Taylor Matson’s freshman and sophomore seasons, so much so that, now a junior, this was his first series against Colorado College. And he certainly made up for lost time.
Late in the first period Friday with the Gophers already leading 1-0, senior Kevin Wehrs picked up a weak clearing pass and fired a shot quickly from the point. Tigers goaltender Joe Howe made a save, but the rebound bounced right to Matson, who snapped a quick wrister into the net.
That goal ultimately proved the game-winner, but it was Matson’s second of the evening in the third period that secured the win. This time he deflected junior defenseman Aaron Ness’ shot from the point past Howe to put Minnesota up 3-1 with just over three minutes remaining in the game.
Nevermind those goals, though. His tally Saturday was the one for the highlight reel. Fourteen minutes into the first period, somehow Colorado College forgot about Matson’s Friday night and left him all alone in front of Howe’s crease. From right of the net, junior Jake Hansen saw Matson waiting and slipped the puck to him. In one motion, Matson took the pass on his forehand, moved it to his backhand and beat Howe five-hole.
Not a bad first impression.