Sacchetti's score gives Gophers weekend split
MINNEAPOLIS — Nico Sacchetti has watched his playing time dwindle in his senior season for the Minnesota Gophers men's hockey team.
Sacchetti admits to being frustrated, but he has tried to keep his emotions in check.
He had a good reason if he wanted to be emotional Saturday night.
Playing for just the eighth time this season, Sacchetti scored the game-winning goal at 5:16 of the second period and the No. 4-ranked Gophers held on to beat No. 11 Colorado College, 2-1, to earn a split of the weekend series.
Sacchetti's goal was his first of the season and 12th in 112 games for Minnesota.
“It's obviously frustrating, but at the same time you can't show it because you want to keep the team up and be there for the team," Sacchetti said of his limited playing time. “If you're not in, you're still part of it and wanting us to do well."
Nate Condon added a shorthanded goal — his fourth shorthanded tally of the season — and goaltender Kent Patterson made 19 saves for Minnesota (17-9-1, 13-5-0 WCHA), which won for just the second time in its past six games.
The Gophers took over the top spot in the conference with 26 points. Minnesota-Duluth, who was playing a non-conference series with Alabama-Huntsville, has 24 points. Colorado College (14-9-1, 11-7-0) has 22 points.
“That's what it's all about, just separating yourself from other teams in the standings," Sacchetti said.
After playing at least 30 games in each of his first three seasons for Minnesota, Sacchetti has played in only eight of the Gophers' 27 games this season. He's watched as nine combined freshmen and sophomores have comprised the forward lines while Minnesota is putting together its best season since 2006-07.
The sitting hasn't been easy for Sacchetti, whose NHL rights are owned by the Dallas Stars. He got his chance Saturday because senior Nick Larson fractured his wrist last weekend in North Dakota.
“It's tough to see Nick Larson go down; he's having a really good year," Sacchetti said. “We have a deep team. I mean, Joe (Miller) was in last night. It just opens up opportunities. I'm happy. I was just trying to make something with mine. It was a huge relief."
Larson is expected to be out of the lineup for four to six weeks and could return for the postseason. Meanwhile, Sacchetti might have earned some more playing time with Saturday night's inspired effort.
“I'm happy for Nico," coach Don Lucia said. “He'd been frustrated. I'm sure he wants to play more. A game like he played tonight, he deserves to play more. So, he'll get rewarded next week. I felt that line played better than they had in a while."
Sacchetti took a pass from Zach Budish, who was behind the net, and squeezed a shot between the right goalpost and Tigers goaltender Josh Thorimbert's left arm from in close seconds after a power-play expired. Playing on the fourth line with sophomore Tom Serratore and Travis Boyd, Sacchetti scored seconds after a power-play expired.
Lucia praised the play of each line and the depth showed as the Gophers controlled the play in the third period, outshooting Colorado College 19-6 in the final period and 37-20 for the game. But Minnesota couldn't add to the lead.
“That's what you worry about," Lucia said. “You're dominating the game and you have some great chances, but we couldn't get that separation goal. Defensively we dug in pretty good."
The Tigers opened the scoring in the first with a goal from Jaden Schwartz. Condon got Minnesota on the board later in the period while killing a penalty. Condon, who also had a shorthanded goal last weekend against North Dakota, is the first Gophers' player to have four shorthanded goals in one season since Ryan Stoa had four in 2008-09.
“Taylor (Matson) and I just take advantage of the opportunities we get," Condon said. “A lot of times on the power play, they just have one defenseman back. So, if we can jump up the ice, it's an odd-man rush for us."
Minnesota had just one win in seven previous games when giving up the first goal.
In a matchup featuring the second- and third-highest scoring teams in the nation, just six goals were scored in the two games. The Gophers are also the nation's fourth-best defensive team though.
“(The Gophers) are a top three defensive team in the country and they showed it tonight," Colorado College coach Scott Owens said. “There was not a lot of room out there, despite being an Olympic sheet."