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Brian Murphy / St. Paul Pioneer Press, Published January 18 2014

Cammarata's goal propels Gophers to win at TCF Bank

MINNEAPOLIS - One goal was all it took for the University of Minnesota men’s hockey team to come in from the cold and join the outdoor winners in college hockey.

Taylor Cammarata’s goal early in the second period Friday vanquished Ohio State 1-0 and rewarded the crowd of 45,021 at TCF Bank Stadium, the largest ever to watch a hockey game in Minnesota, for braving a 10-degree night to attend the 2014 Hockey City Classic.

The freshman’s fifth goal of the season, with assists from Kyle Rau and Justin Hull, stood up as goalie Adam Wilcox made 21 saves for the shutout.

Cammarata’s tally was not pretty. Buckeyes goalie Matt Tomkins stopped his initial shot but the puck dribbled between his legs and died in the crease. Spinning around to freeze the puck Tomkins instead knocked it into his own net.

But it was a beauty for Minnesota in the standings. The No. 1-ranked Gophers improved to 16-2-3 overall and 6-0-1 in the Big Ten.

“It seemed like everybody had a good time,” said coach Don Lucia. “It was the type of game we expected. You’d have to chip and chase, not a lot of pretty plays but we did enough to get the one goal. Obviously Adam did the rest.”

The Hobey Baker nominee’s biggest save came in the first period on a breakaway by Ryan Dzingel. Wilcox stayed square to the Dzingel and made the blocker stop.

“He had his stick in the position where I knew he was going to shoot it,” Wilcox said. “If he pulled it across I was maybe going to throw a stick out. I saw him go low and I just threw my leg and blocker out there and tried to cover that whole corner.”

It was a plodding, risk-averse game that featured plenty of net crashing and scrambles. The teams eschewed long passes in favor of chipping pucks up ice, leaving the fans to generate their own excitement — and heat.

Some did not even bother to dress for the occasion.

Like the pair of shirtless, uncoordinated dancers in beige overalls who delighted the crowd with their videoboard performance late in the third period. The cold hardly bothered the players, according to Gophers co-captain Nate Condon.

“Actually, when we were out there it was great,” he said. “When you were skating around, you felt pretty comfortable. They had nice little heaters on the bench. For sure it was something different for us playing in front of 45,000 people tonight.”

The victory made up for Minnesota’s unfulfilling outdoor experience last year at Chicago’s Soldier Field, where the Gophers lost 3-2 to Wisconsin.

Although 52,000 people attended, there only were about 24,000 people in the 60,000-seat stadium during Minnesota’s game. Moreover, sunshine and a relatively mild 32-degree day last Feb. 17 created slushy conditions that required constant maintenance.

That was not an issue Friday night.

“The ice conditions were very good; I think there was only one repair,” Lucia said. “That was a lot different from last year’s event.”

The stakes were high — three points for a conference game. The teams retreat to Mariucci Arena Saturday night for the conclusion of the series.

Lucia, however, demurred when asked whether the Gophers should play another outdoor game and instead lobbied the NHL to schedule one at TCF Bank Stadium.

“I think we’ll wait for a while now,” Lucia said. “Quite frankly, the next team that deserves to play this is the Wild.”