MINNEAPOLIS — The pregame points of emphasis paid off for the Gophers’ hockey team.
When captain Kyle Rau knocked home a rebound in overtime Saturday for Minnesota, relief was provided to a struggling team and an offense looking for results to match their weighted shot advantage.
Rau’s overtime goal, his seventh tally of the season, helped the Gophers survive to win the third-place game of the Mariucci Classic Saturday with a 3-2 win against RIT. Goaltender Adam Wilcox made 19 saves and Vinni Lettieri and Mike Reilly also scored for Minnesota, which had been 2-4-1 since opening the season 7-1-0.
"It’s good for us," Rau said. "It was a good tournament. We had 90 shots or whatever, but we need to start scoring goals. I think it starts with crashing the net on rebounds. So that was a good one for us and we squeak away with a win."
The usually high-scoring Gophers hadn’t seen the payoff for controlling the play in two games this weekend. Minnesota outshot its two opponents on the weekend by a combined 91-38 total. The Gophers lost 3-2 to Merrimack — which lost to UMass-Lowell on Saturday for the tournament title â despite outshooting Merrimack 42-17.
A day later, the Gophers were left trying to find any way to beat RIT goaltender Mike Rotol, who made 46 saves. Minnesota outshot RIT, 49-21.
"Right now we’re in that little bit of a spell where guys are gripping their stick a little bit and it’s hard for us to score right now," coach Don Lucia said.
Lucia talked to the team before Saturday’s game and stressed two objectives which would help revive the offense. Lucia asked his team the last time it scored a goal on a tip and the last time it scored on a rebound.
The search for those answers will be easier after Saturday. Lettieri opened the scoring just 3 minutes, 45 seconds into the first period, tipping home a shot from Christian Isackson. Rau was able to break free and score on a rebound of a shot from Hudson Fasching.
"We had a lot of shots," Rau said. "But if you look at our shots . . . I could have saved half of them. We need to crash the net and that starts with that. We had one tipped goal and that was stressed. We had one rebound goal and that was stressed, too. We got both of those and won the game."
Lucia pointed to the positive points of the weekend, getting 90 shots on goal in two games and holding opponents to less than 40 shots.
"If you continue to do those things, those trends, then you’ll start to get rewarded," Lucia said. "This weekend, maybe we didn’t get rewarded overall for our play."
But Lucia sees the upcoming potential. Fasching and defenseman Ryan Collins returned to the lineup after playing in the World Junior Championships. Leon Bristedt should return this week after playing for Sweden in the tournament.
Lucia said defenseman Brady Skjei, out with an unspecified injury, could be close to returning.
"Hopefully we can kind of put the lines together and the defensive partners together and move forward," Lucia said. "And hopefully some guys will start to score."