No. 3 Minnesota rode the back of an unlikely goal-scorer in last Saturday’s 2-1 victory over Colorado College.
Nico Sacchetti — who had played in just seven games this season before Jan. 21 — played the hero when he got his stick on a puck in front of the net and scored the goal that proved to be the difference.
“It was a huge relief [to score that goal],” Sacchetti said after Saturday’s win. “It’s tough to see Nick Larson go down … but we have a deep team.
“It just opens up opportunities, and I’m just happy and trying to make something of mine.”
Sacchetti made the most of his opportunity, and head coach Don Lucia said his senior forward will see the ice again in the upcoming series against St. Cloud State.
“I think Nico has earned the right, and he’s going to play again here this weekend,” Lucia said Wednesday. “Sooner or later we’re going to need everybody, and a door opened up when Nick Larson got hurt.
“We played a couple guys last weekend in that spot, and Nico had a real good game on Saturday.”
Sacchetti, a native of Virginia, Minn., has seen his ice time significantly decrease in his senior season with the Gophers.
He played in 36 of the team’s 37 games his freshman year, 38 of the team’s 39 games in his sophomore campaign and in 30 games as a junior.
This Friday will mark just his ninth game of this season.
“It’s obviously frustrating, but at the same time you can’t show that because you want to keep picking the team up and be there for the team even if you’re not in,” Sacchetti said Saturday.
That type of team-first mentality sparked an infectious reaction when Sacchetti scored his
first goal of the season against Colorado
“I was out there with him [when he scored],” forward Zach Budish said. “I think he was a combination of excited and relieved.”
Taylor Matson said the entire bench erupted when Sacchetti scored but noted that Sacchetti has worked for that moment.
“He’s worked hard every single day to try and get into the lineup,” Matson said. “I think he earned his spot getting that game-winning goal on Saturday, and I think he’s got a lot of confidence this week, and I can tell in practice.”
The Gophers will look for similar production from Sacchetti this weekend as they take on the Huskies (10-12-4, 7-8-3 WCHA) in a home-and-home series.
Minnesota (17-9-1, 13-5-0 WCHA) split its last series with SCSU in November, but anything short of a sweep this weekend would be an extreme disappointment for a team that has been mediocre on Fridays this season.
The Huskies were dealing with injuries in November, but it has become an even bigger concern this time around.
They played without senior captains Drew LeBlanc and Mike Lee in the previous meeting, but since then Cam Reid and Mitch MacMillan have left the program.
Reid was the second-line center and scored a goal in the Huskies’ 4-3 win against the Gophers in November.
Despite the misfortune, SCSU has still been able to produce offensively and defeated North Dakota last weekend.
Ben Hanowski and Jared Festler lead the Huskies with 27 and 20 points, respectively.
“They’ve got most of their players that they had available last time we played them,” Lucia said. “They certainly have enough up front with Festler and Hanowski … that they can generate the offense,” Lucia said.
The Gophers have not swept a series since Dec. 2-3 against Minnesota State but could use this weekend as a way to make a statement moving forward.
“This weekend is going to be huge for us as far as getting that win on Friday and hopefully taking that momentum up to St. Cloud on Saturday,” Nate Condon said. “We’re happy about it that we’re still doing well on Saturday nights. But come the end of the year, if you lose on Friday, you’re done.”
Minnesota will play Friday night at Mariucci Arena and will travel to St. Cloud for Saturday’s game.