Minnesota finally may have exorcised its Friday demons.
Winning just three of their previous ten Friday contests, the Gophers (20-11-1 Overall, 16-7-0 WCHA) came out like gangbusters last night, thoroughly dominating the play and the scoresheet en route to a 3-0 drubbing of Bemidji State (15-13-3 Overall, 9-11-3 WCHA).
Friday 2/17/12: 3-0 Gopher Win
The Gopher domination of Friday night's game started early. Zach Budish tipped a Mark Alt slapshot past Beaver goalie Dan Bakala at 1:00 of the first period to give the Gophers a lead they would never vanquish. In fact, the game was never in doubt after that first minute. Minnesota did not allow a shot on goal until the 12-minute mark of the first period, and Beaver scoring chances were hard to come by all night. The Gophers extended their lead at 9:13 of the period, when Budish again found a loose puck in front of the crease and banged it home to make the score 2-0. That's the way it ended after the first period, and the shots on goal told the story: Minnesota outshot Bemidji State 14-2 in the opening frame.
The Gophers did not let up on the domination in the second or third, controlling the play what seemed like nine out of every ten seconds. The shots advantage continued to widen for Minnesota - by the end of the game they held a 36-13 lead. The Gophers would tack another goal on in the second period, a Nick Bjugstad tally from the weak side off of a nifty goalmouth pass from Kyle Rau.
The third period was all about protecting the shutout bid for Kent Patterson. Minnesota, maligned last weekend for taking unnecessary penalties that cost them a chance to win the game, did not commit a penalty throughout the sixty minutes of action. Patterson only had to make one or two quality saves all night - including a dandy on a partial two-on-one - to earn his seventh shutout of the season.
Three Gopher Stars of the Game
3. Kent Patterson - 13 saves on 13 shots, 7th shutout of the season
Patterson did not allow a goal on a night when the opposing team did not have much chance of scoring. The senior netminder's conference-leading 2.04 GAA speaks both to his ability as a goaltender and his teammates' attitude towards backchecking, clogging lanes and blocking shots. The shutout was Patterson's seventh of the season, extending his team-record for shutouts in a single season.
2. Nick Bjugstad - 1G-1A-2P
Bjugstad got back on track against Bemidji after tallying only one total assist in his previous three games. The sophomore leads the team with 22 goals and 36 points on the year. Minnesota needs Bjugstad to be their best offensive player.
1. Zach Budish - 2G-0A-2P
Budish scored the first two goals of the game for Minnesota, and his goals set the tone for the game. It's nice to see Budish succeed on that top line after being oft overshadowed by linemates Nick Bjugstad and Kyle Rau. The redshirt sophomore's two goals got him to the ten-goal mark on the season, and the Gophers now have six players who have reached that level of production.
The victory gave the Gophers a much needed two points in the WCHA - they were needed because both UMD and Denver won their games on Friday. The race for the MacNaughton Cup has become a three-horse field, as Minnesota (32 points) narrowly leads Minnesota-Duluth (31 points) and Denver (30 points). Tonight's game is a big one for the Gophers, who could do no worse than maintain their position in the conference with a win. They'll need to put forth another quality effort tonight if they want to sweep this tough Beaver squad - Bemidji is now 11-5-2 in their last 18 games, and they will be doing everything they can to avoid the sweep.