Gophers Score Seven Sweeping Seawolves
7-1 Win Extends Unbeaten Streak to Eight
Minnesota may have been looking ahead to its upcoming series with North Dakota last night, but left no room for doubt Saturday. The Gophers scored twice in the first and never looked back en route to a 7-1 win over Alaska Anchorage.
Three Gophers got healthy on the stat sheet in the team’s first WCHA sweep of the season. Kyle Rau scored three goals, Nate Schmidt tallied four assists, and Sam Warning picked up three assists. Minnesota controlled play from the drop of the puck, allowing Alaska Anchorage only two shots in the first period, and ended up outshooting the Seawolves 31-13.
“Better start for us tonight, they played so hard last night and maybe losing a heartbreaker like that took a little out of them,” said Lucia. “Our guys came out and played much better and dominated the first period.”
The Gophers are enjoying a streak of eight games without a loss, and more importantly to their coach, are 3-0 without Erik Haula in the lineup. Lucia wasn’t confident if Haula will be back in the lineup next weekend against North Dakota and the Finnish forward will likely test his injury in practice and may be a game-time decision.
The sweep pushes Minnesota’s first half conference record to 8-3-3 and the team welcomes North Dakota to Mariucci Arena next weekend for a series that will play a big factor into their defense of the MacNaughton Cup. This weekend will be North Dakota’s last trip to Minneapolis for at least a few years, and will put one of college hockey's best rivalries on hold for at least a few seasons.
“We’re so excited, rivalry weekend—it doesn’t get much better than that,” said Rau. “We’re ready to go.”
Minnesota got on the board first when Seth Ambroz got the benefit of two bounces for his second goal of the season. The first bounce came as a fore checking Jake Parenteau blocked Austin Coldwell’s breakout pass with his shin pad and the puck deflected high up into the air right back to Parenteau. The second bounce came as Parenteau tried to dangle it past the UAA defense and it went off a skate onto Ambroz‘s stick, who put it five-hole for the goal at 9:55. Rau got his 11th goal of the season tipping a Schmidt point shot past Seawolf goaltender Rob Gunderson who was screened by Zach Budish in front. The goal was Minnesota’s 26th power play goal of the season.
Alaska Anchorage got a goal 36 seconds into the second period when Matt Bailey put his blade on a Kory Roy backhand and tipped the puck past Adam Wilcox. Budish got his seventh goal of the season 9:29 into the second period into a wide open net as Gunderson committed to Warning and leaving all 24 square feet of the net exposed for #24. Rau picked up his second goal of the game as he slipped a backhand shot five-hole to put the Gophers up 4-1 at 19:16 of the second.
The Gophers poured it on in the third period, as the Seawolves seemed to lose their legs and start thinking about their long flight home. Rau got his hat trick and 13th goal of the season 5:34 into the third on another five-hole backhand. Nate Condon got his seventh goal of the season at 12:07 of third on the power play. AJ Michaelson got his second goal of the season, five-hole of course, at 13:47 of the third. Rau remarked after the game that there wasn’t a book to go five-hole on Gunderson, but the coaches did tell them to get the goalie moving side to side.
Wilcox didn’t see too much action during his 51:49 between the pipes, making 10 saves on 11 shots, and Michael Shibrowski came on in relief for his first action since an October 19 game at Michigan Tech getting two saves. Lucia indicated the coaching staff debated whether or not to start Shibrowski Saturday night, but stuck with Wilcox until the score became 6-1 in the third.
Golden Nuggets: 3rd star Warning 3 assists, 2nd star Schmidt 4 assists, and 1st star Rau 3 goals… the only other Gopher with multiple points was Ambroz with 1 goal and 1 assist, the sophomore played on the fourth line, as Justin Holl got a shot on the third line Saturday. Schmidt has 19 assists on the season, and is the leading scorer among WCHA defensemen, he commented after the game that he didn't really earn all four assists, but he loves passing to all his talented teammates… Alaska Anchorage coach Dave Shyiak was especially frustrated after the game as Matt Bailey received another 5-minute boarding call in the third period. Shyiak was concerned that there have been way too many game misconducts called this season, officials are taking hitting out of the game, and his players are confused with how to play the body… Coach Lucia highlighted Brady Skjei as making some strides with his play and thought Mike Reilly was back after maybe being off his game his first two appearances returning from the World Junior Championships.