Hot Start Continues As Gophers Blank Sioux 2-0
Kent Patterson turned away 24 shots as the Gophers improved their record to 8-1-0 thanks to a 2-0 victory over North Dakota on Friday night at an electric Mariucci Arena.
The shutout was Patterson’s fifth of the season, tying the team record currently held by Robb Stauber, for shutouts in a season.
The two teams combined for 29 penalties, with five Sioux players and four Gophers in the penalty box at one point during the second period … clearly the rivalry is as alive as ever, despite the Gophers being a little ‘down’ in recent years.
“Just another ho-hum game,” said Gopher head coach Don Lucia after the victory.
Gopher freshman Seth Ambroz took a pair of penalties midway through a sloppy but pretty uneventful first period, and then early in the second he was given a five minute major for Contact to the Head, giving UND a pivotal five minute power play. However, the Gophers actually generated more scoring chances that the Sioux did during those five minutes, and Minnesota emerged from the Ambroz major unscathed.
Lucia cited that penalty kill as a turning point in the contest.
“We were able to do a good job on our kill,” Lucia said. “We got some momentum from the kill since we didn’t give up a lot of looks on it.”
At the 11:47 mark of the second period, there would be 11 penalties dished out thanks to a scrum in the Minnesota end after a Patterson save. The end result was a Gopher power play, and Minnesota was able to get that critical first goal for the eighth time in nine games this season. Sioux senior captain Mario Lamoureux blocked a pair of point shots by Nate Schmidt but hurt himself and broke his stick in the process. He stayed on the ice but was severely hampered, and that goofed with UND’s kill.
Kyle Rau made a great play along the wall to stop a UND clearing attempt, and he dished the puck across the ice to Nick Bjugstad, who found himself all alone. He walked the puck in on UND goalie Aaron Dell and elected to shoot rather than pass to a pair of teammates who were all alone, and that resulted in his seventh goal of the season and put the Gophers ahead 1-0 thanks to a beautiful shot that beat Dell high on the blocker-side.
“If I wouldn’t have scored I probably would have caught some heat from the guys,” said Bjugstad. “There were some wide-open guys but fortunately it went in.”
The Gophers had a few more power plays shortly after Bjugstad’s goal, but several key players, including Jake Hansen and Erik Haula, were in the penalty box due to the scrum in front of Patterson, so things were thrown off a bit for one of the nation’s best power play units.
Minnesota killed off a pair of Sioux power plays early in the third period, but still couldn’t extend its lead past a goal until fourth line winger Tom Serratore netted his second of the season at 11:17 of the third. Freshman Travis Boyd did a good job on the faceoff in the Gopher end, and senior Nick Larson was able to chip the puck past a UND defender as the play moved outside the zone. Serratore did the rest, beating Dell five-hole for his second goal of the season.
After that goal, the Gophers controlled the play the rest of the period, until UND pulled Dell for the extra attacker, but Patterson stood tall in making six third period saves and thwarting four Sioux power plays during the final stanza.
“He [Patterson] is making some key saves at critical moments,” Lucia said. “We always say your best penalty killer is your goaltender, and Kent certainly did that for us tonight.”
Sioux head coach Dave Hakstol admitted that special teams cost his team the game on this night.
“Both sides played pretty hard on special teams … they won that battle 1-0 and that turns out to be the game-winner,” Hakstol said.
North Dakota finished the night 0-7 on the power play, including missing out on that five minute major.
Hakstol said his team needs to loosen up a bit offensively as they may have some players trying to force things or do too much. UND is very short-handed up front for a variety of reasons right now, as they were again forced to play two defensemen on the fourth line as wings.
He also complimented Dell, who was very good on the night in stopping 30 shots, as both Gopher goals were on point-blank chances.
Overall, it was a great hockey game that featured arguably the top rivalry in the sport at the collegiate level.
“This has to be one of my favorite games to play in,” Bjugstad said. “Obviously we play North Dakota at our place, it’s crazy. There’s just no better game you could play in.”
The Saturday rematch gets underway at 7:30 p.m. and will air live on the Big Ten Network.