January 15, 2017 PRINT Bookmark and Share

Roundup: Minnesota Wins 6th Straight; PSU Still No. 1

Wild Weekend in WCHA

CHN Staff Report

Minnesota got a hat trick from senior Vinni Lettieri to help earn a sweep of Michigan on the weekend. The Gophers have won six in a row and eight of the last nine.

"He's having a really nice senior year, he works really hard, and it's nice to see him rewarded," Minnesota coach Don Lucia said of Lettieri.

One of the goals, which ended up being the game winner, came on a penalty shot.

With a power-play goal, a penalty shot goal and an empty-net goal, Lettieri closed out the night with 11 goals on the year — a new career high for the native of Excelsior, Minn. Ryan Collins added his second goal of the year, while Leon Bristedt had two assists for the second night in a row.

After trailing 3-0 midway through the third period, Michigan freshman forward Steven Merl mounted a comeback attempt with his first collegiate goal as he took a pass from sophomore forward Brendan Warren and took a shot from the far right hashmark. Evan Allen proceeded to cut the deficit to 3-2 at the 14:22 mark on a deflection from Nolan De Jong's shot from the point. But that was as close as the Wolverines got.

Minnesota won despite battling some absences to illness, a common theme throughout the country at the moment.

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Penn State scored four times in the third period on 23 shots, and stormed to a 5-3 win over Michigan State and a weekend sweep, as it remained atop the Pairwise and even with Minnesota for first place in the Big Ten.

Two of the goals came in a nine-second span. It was 2-2 with five minutes left in regulation until Ricky DeRosa and Chase Berger scored the quick-strike tallies. For Berger it was his second of the game and 10th of the season. Freshman Denis Smirnov capped things off just two minutes later, his 11th of the season.

“I thought it was a really good game all along. I don’t think we lacked," PSU coach Guy Gadowsky said about his team falling behind 2-1 after two periods. "I thought we played very well the entire game. I give our guys a ton of credit, this was an excellent game and an excellent win.”

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One night after getting routed, Arizona State managed to respond with a 2-2 tie at Ohio State on Saturday.

A shootout was held, following Big Ten protocol. Arizona State won the shootout, 1-0 in three rounds, on a goal by Wade Murphy in the first round. Though it didn't count for anything, the Sun Devils jumped on the situation.

"It's a huge game for us," ASU coach coach Greg Powers. "We felt like we carried the play of the game for 57 minutes. They had some push back there at the end of the second, put us down, but our guys never had a doubt. They never faltered and never wavered.

"We're trying to get our young team to understand how good it feels when you leave everything on the ice, and tonight they feel that way."

Ohio State, however, which needs wins to better its Pairwise positioning, was left feeling like an opportunity was lost.

“Like they say, every time you lace it up you have to compete at the highest level," OSU coach Steve Rohlik said. "They’re a good hockey team — they work hard. To have the lead right to the end, you have to find a way to win that game. To walk away with a tie leaves a little bit of a bitter taste in your mouth.

“The biggest thing is giving a message to the guys to give me everything you've got for another two and a half months and do what we can to get better. We have to take advantage every day we can in order to get better. We have to get better.”

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Friday night, all four WCHA games went to overtime, and the only one decided in the standard 5-minute extra session was Bowling Green in its win over Minnesota State.

Saturday, three of the four games went to OT, and the only one that didn't was the Mavericks' reply to Bowling Green, as MSU scored four straight goals in a 4-3 win.

C.J. Franklin scored two goals and assisted on another. Zeb Knutson, Daniel Brickley and Marc Michaelis had the other MSU goals.

"Franklin exerted his will in the third period," Minnesota State coach Mike Hastings said. "Obviously it wasn't our best effort through two. We faced adversity with a five-minute major at the end of a period and (a minor) after that. The penalty killers did their job. Our leadership group really stepped up there."

Zach Stepan had a pair of assists for the Mavs.

"I just singled him out in the locker room in a positive way and asked him to keep doing what he's doing," Hastings said of Stepan. "The seat we get behind the bench is a pretty good seat. To see him mentor some of our younger guys and calm them down when maybe things aren't going their way — he doesn't have a badge on his shoulder but he's definitely leading. I'm very appreciative of what he's doing right now."

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For the second straight night, Michigan Tech and Alaska-Anchorage went past overtime. Saturday, it was the Huskies that earned the extra point with a shootout win.

"Tonight was a lot like (Friday) night," Tech coach Mel Pearson said. "They play a style that is effective and hard to play against. They play so well defensively and they're getting great goaltending. We shot ourselves in the foot with all the penalties. There was no rhythm to the game with all the calls, but we've got to be better in that area and play five on five.

"We'll take the two points and move on. We still have control of our own destiny in this league. Our third period was really good. We hit posts and crossbars and just didn't get any puck luck tonight."

Down 1-0, Chris Gerrie picked the right time to score his first career goal with 21 seconds left in the second period. The play started with a stretch pass from Chris Liebinger to Gerrie for a breakaway. UAA goaltender Rasmus Reijola made the initial save, but Gerrie dug the putck out of the corner and fired another shot that found the back of the net.

"I've been waiting a long time for that one," Gerrie said. "I've had a lot of good scoring chances this year, so it was nice to get that out of the way and feel some relief. I was actually trying to get a pass out to the point but the stars aligned for me, and I put it on net."

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