Offense Comes Up Short In Loss To North Dakota
Much like the previous two meetings this season between Minnesota and North Dakota, the two teams played a tightly-contested game that went down to the wire. But unlike the first two games at Mariucci Arena, the Gophers came out on the wrong side on Friday night in Grand Forks as they fell 2-1 to North Dakota in front of a capacity crowd at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
Both Sioux goals were direct results of turnovers by sophomore Nick Bjugstad, though the first one came on a play that should have been whistled dead due to a icing call on North Dakota that the referees waived off. And with less than ten seconds to go in the second period, UND junior defenseman Andrew MacWilliam scored his first career goal after Bjugstad turned the puck over along the board.
That evened the game at 1-1 after freshman Kyle Rau put the Gophers in the lead at the 6:29 mark of the first period. He hammered in a rebound off a Zach Budish shot for his 13th goal of the season.
Later that period, UND’s Danny Kristo would check Minnesota defenseman Ben Marshall from behind (while punching him in the back of the head) into the glass, giving the Gophers a five minute power play and heading Kristo to the showers early. However, the Gophers were outchanced on the man-advantage by North Dakota, who seemingly had twice as many chances while down a man on this night as the Gophers did while on the power play. The Minnesota power play has been going downhill from quite some time, and the unit continued that trend on this night in going 0-4, including not getting a whiff during the five minute advantage.
The game was tied heading into the final minutes when Bjugstad turned the puck over at the Minnesota blueline. North Dakota chipped the puck in, won a battle along the boards – which was a common occurrence on this night – and their leading goal-scorer, Brock Nelson, notched his 16th of the season, beating Bjugstad out of the corner and sliding the puck past a screened Kent Patterson, who played very well in defeat and made several big saves during the game’s first 30 minutes to keep the team in the game.
The loss dropped the Gophers out of first place in the WCHA and now the team is 6-7-1 since sweeping the Sioux back in early November. Minnesota will probably finish Friday night just two points ahead of Colorado College – who they host next weekend – for second play, with a large group of teams within a handful of points of both clubs.
Saturday’s game is as close to a must-win for Minnesota as you can have at this point in the season. The contest gets underway at 7 p.m. on Saturday.