NCAA DI Men's Hockey

CCHA RinkRap: St. Thomas Put Nation On Notice With Tight Series Vs. Gophers

CCHA RinkRap: St. Thomas Put Nation On Notice With Tight Series Vs. Gophers

St. Thomas may have been swept by Minnesota, but their drama-filled series opener at the Xcel Energy Center should be viewed as a positive step.

Oct 16, 2023 by Tim Rappleye

On a whirlwind CCHA weekend that included five overtime thrillers Friday, nine different out-of-conference clashes, a five-goal weekend by a freshman and storylines dripping with irony and poetic justice, Friday’s battle of the Twin Cities dwarfed them all.

St. Thomas and Minnesota staged an epic battle in the venue that will host this season’s Frozen Four, and the Xcel Center only hope the national championship will approach the drama that was on display Friday night in St. Paul.

It took the 73rd shot of the night, a stunning rink-length rush by sure-fire Hobey Baker finalist Jimmy Snuggerud to cap this night of hockey brilliance, despair and joy. In the heart of Big Ten football country, a season-opening college hockey game took center stage in the Twin Cities, a contest no witness will soon forget.

“This game was so good for college hockey,” said Gopher season-ticket holder Kim Hansen, one of 12,000 fans at the Xcel Center that needed the rest of the weekend to calm down from a single game’s intensity. The losing side had a half dozen characters play the glorious and bloodied Hector to the victorious Achilles. Like St. Paul native Matt Gleason who through sheer force of will generated the turnover that led to Luke Manning’s goal to give the Tommies the lead in the second intermission. 

But in the end, it was the talent-laden Gophers who prevailed in overtime. The coach who took the loss—in a contest that elevated his program to new heights—provided sober analysis.

“We’re taking necessary steps, progressing to make sure we’re in these games, more than we’re not, and we were in that game,” said Blasi, who has been to two Frozen Fours. “Do I think we’re there yet? Probably not. But we’re getting close.”

Cold Hard Facts

Blasi’s Tommies traveled seven miles Saturday for their rematch with the Gophers up at Mariucci Arena, where they fell 3-0. Despite all the hysteria, St. Thomas was 0-2 on the weekend, one of the losses mitigated by overtime. 

Down in Big Rapids, there was much jubilation Friday when Ferris won a shootout vs then 12th ranked Western Michigan, but again, the Pairwise computer was not kind to the CCHA, as Ferris recorded a loss and a tie over the weekend. 

Bemidji beat Army, but lost to Wisconsin the night before. Northern scored a whopping ten goals up in Duluth, but couldn’t manage a win in their two game set. 

Michigan Tech couldn’t manage a victory at home against an Alaska squad they had swept in Fairbanks a year ago. 

Minnesota State was the only CCHA team with a winning weekend while so many other Pairwise points fell by the wayside. 

The CCHA’s bottom line on this non-conference carnival weekend: four wins, nine losses and three ties. Long on thrills, short on points.

Around The Horn

A sensational NCAA debut for Northern Michigan red shirt freshman Tanner Latsch, who scored a hat trick Friday in Duluth. Only one other Cat had turned the trick to open his career, as Jeff Pyle scored thrice back in October of 1978. The fact that Latsch piled on two more the next night has information brokers scrambling to find a comparable feat . . . Ferris coach Bob Daniels’ faith in his second starting goalie Logan Stein was justified Friday, as Stein outdueled Western Michigan goalie Cameron Rowe to take the shootout. This space has questioned Daniels insistence on starting Stein in net over potential star Noah Giesbrecht, but Stein once again proved Daniels correct. 

Former Bowling Green goalie Zack Rose picked up two wins over his old club as Augustana swept the Falcons in Sioux Falls . . . Augustana freshman Hunter Bischoff scored the program’s historic first goal Saturday night, a fitting accomplishment since he was the Vikings first commit two years ago . . . Old friend Mike Hastings, now coach of the Wisconsin Badgers, arrived in Bemidji with a familiar game plan: greedy puck possession. His Badgers amassed 60 shots on goal in Friday’s overtime victory over the Beavers . . . Two survivors of the Hastings exodus from Mankato to Madison last spring were prominent in Minnesota State’s impressive sweep over 10th ranked St. Cloud. Grad student Sam Morton had a pair of goals in Saturday’s victory, while sophomore Adam Eisele stashed the overtime winner Friday on a sensational individual effort. More impressive was Eisele’s prowess in the faceoff dot all weekend, an astounding 23 for 32 (72%) . . . Michigan Tech forward Logan Pietila broke a pair of negative streaks Saturday, scoring his first goal of the season and the team’s first power play goal in 10 attempts. It was this gem in the shootout, however, that earned him national recognition.