Gophers Finish Strong, Beat North Dakota
Wilcox’s Strong & Timely Goaltending, Condon’s Scoring Lead the Way
Photo by: Craig Cotner UND's goalie, Clarke Saunders, looks over his shoulder for the puck as Nate Condon scores shorthanded. While it was a very tight game and bubbled on the intensity meter, for the most part this game didn’t play out as expected. But the result was a very strong finish in all aspects; Adam Wilcox stopped 24 shots, and Nate Condon had a goal and two assists to lead the pace in a 5 – 1 Gopher win on Friday night to open the much anticipated last regular season series between the rivals as conference opponents.
The crowd was ready to go in the first period…but didn’t have a whole lot to get excited about. It was a feeling each other out type of period, although things bubbled for a short stretch or two. The Gophers had two power plays in the period but didn’t get much going. They did, however, a much better job in the faceoff circle, winning 9 of 16 draws which would continue on the night.
“When the game started, it was kind of tentative on both sides, it was cautious” said Coach Lucia afterwards.
Things got amped up a notch in the second, as was expected. North Dakota was very much the better team for the first part of the period, and they got on the board first after a very fortunate non-off sides call and an even more fortunate bounce. After it appeared Danny Kristo had not cleared the zone, Michael Parks tried a pass to the slot from the corner. Seth Helgason was tying up a UND player in front, but the puck bounced off his arm and over Adam Wilcox’s shoulder.
“They got one early in the second” said Wilcox. “It was off a weird bounce, so I wasn’t too mad about it, those happen.”
The Gophers had been sluggish up to that point but this got them going. They started skating better and knotted up the game. Sam Warning made a great play skating through two UND players and getting the puck through to center ice where Zach Budish grabbed it; while not having a great angle he used the UND defender as a screen and sniped one top shelf to tie the game at one.
It appeared that would stay after two periods but the Gophers got a big goal at the end. While on the power play, four Gophers crashed the net, got the puck to the slot and a shot on net; it bounced to Ben Marshall who put it in with just 5.2 seconds left in the period.
“They capitalized…that was a tough goal for us to give up with a few seconds left in the second” said a very intense UND coach Dave Hakstol, postgame.
North Dakota ramped up the intensity in the 3rd but it was the Gophers who would stand up and run away with the game. Nate Schmidt started the 3rd period scoring barrage by faking a shot, getting himself into better position, then blasting a shot which deflected off of a UND player in front.
After Tom Serratore took an ill-advised penalty with six minutes to play, you could feel things tightening up. But Nate Condon basically put the game away, dancing around a UND player whose stick broke on the shot that Condon blocked. He skated through and around him then picked the upper corner with a fantastic shot for his 8th goal of the year.
“There was no doubt that I was going to the net” said Condon when asked what his thoughts were when he had a 1 on 1 with a player without a stick. “There was no way I was going to pull up at that point”
Erik Haula scored an empty netter with three minutes left as UND pulled Saunders for an extra attacker.
“I really wanted to play” said Haula after the game, referring to his being able to practice 3 days this week, with contact. “Let’s put it this way, I’ve never felt better after this win” he said, to much laughter.
The Gophers will need to double their efforts tomorrow evening. It’s an early 5PM start as the middle game of Hockey Day Minnesota. It’s tough to sweep a team in the WCHA, especially your biggest rival and UND will want some revenge for tonight. If the Gophers come out with their best it shouldn’t be an issue, but from listening to their players afterwards it wouldn’t be a surprise if they ran at Wilcox from the get-go.
Enjoy the day tomorrow, get out and get involved with hockey if you can!
Game Notes: Erik Haula’s assist on the 4th Gopher goal was his 100th point as a Gopher…the game was played before 10,318 (paid), which is the 3rd largest in arena history…The Gophers went 33 – 26 in the faceoff circle, a decent improvement in their average, against a pretty good faceoff team…The three stars of the game were Marshall (3), Wilcox (2), and Condon (1).