In game two of the WCHA first round on Saturday at Mariucci Arena, there were two distinct themes were in play. Bemidji State needed a win to extend the series to a Sunday finish while a Gopher win would send the second seed to St. Paul for the WCHA Final Five. The goaltending matchup was identical to Friday night with Andrew Walsh for Bemidji State and Adam Wilcox for Minnesota.
The Beavers got the first shot of the game in the first minute, but Minnesota was soon to follow with a shot of their own. The early couple of minutes felt like goals were going to come at a premium with the way things looked.
Possession was something to be held at a premium too, as a couple of off sides calls (one in each end in the first 2:56) really stifled any sort of opportunity each team would have in its offensive end.
The way that each goaltender (Wilcox for Minnesota and Walsh for Bemidji State) played was also critical to watch. Would either be rattled as the game went on? We were soon to answer this question. As the first six minutes expired, shots were even at three apiece. Six different players had those shots recorded, and each shooter resided from either the fourth, third, or top lines for Minnesota.
Overwhelmingly, the play of the goaltenders kept the game scoreless through the first eleven minutes, and the game had the “odd bounce” feeling that was similar to the bitter end of how Friday turned out.
Another battle that would be fun to watch is the one with face-offs. It allows the winning team to control the puck for a few seconds, but also brings the losing team’s defense up notches, or the need for said defense at least.
As the first period started to come to an end, the Gophers were creative in their chances to get shots, but that wouldn’t fool Andrew Walsh for the Beavers. Shots were 7-5 in favor of Minnesota through 15:30.
At 16:18, Bemidji State took the first power play of the game as Minnesota’s Nick Bjugstad took a two-minute boarding minor. At 16:49, Bemidji State’s Jordan George scored on a play in close, giving the Beavers a one-goal lead. George was assisted by Ben Kinne and Radoslav Illo.
Not long after the goal, Minnesota found second life as they teed off on Andrew Walsh in the Bemidji State zone to no avail. At the end of twenty minutes, shots on goal favored Minnesota 12-8 and Bemidji State was 1-1 on the only power play of the period.
The beginning two minutes of the second period did not net a single shot, and yet, Minnesota clearly had the better of the chances.
At the six minute mark, Minnesota nearly capitalized on a bad play from BSU’s Walsh, but it came for naught and the score still read BSU 1-0. The Gophers played their hearts out early in the second period, but simply weren’t rewarded for it.
At the 7:25 mark, Minnesota’s Jake Parenteau let loose a rip a shot from the blue line forcing Walsh to make a “look what I found” style glove save.
At 9:27 of the second period, Bemidji State capitalized on a tip-in by Cory Ward. The even strength goal put BSU up 2-0. Ward was assisted by Sam Rendle and Sam Windle on the effort.
Shots were 17-10 at the 31:07 mark, and it appeared as though the second intermission in the Minnesota locker room would not be a pleasant one.
One goal would change the complexion of the game, and the BSU defense was unrelenting. Shots were 21-11 at the 34:00 mark in Minneapolis, favoring the Gophers while there hadn’t been a penalty to that point in the second period either.
At the 15:26 mark, Minnesota got its first power play of the night when Jordan George went to the box for tripping. Seven seconds later off the faceoff, Minnesota’s Nick Bjugstad scored on the power play. Bjugstad was assisted by Kyle Rau and Erik Haula, only to be answered at 15:47 by Jeff Jubinville. Jubinville was assisted by Phil Brewer and Brance Orban. So, the conclusion there is that Bjugstad (and the Gophers for that matter) could score.
At 18:55, Minnesota scored to creep within one thanks to Nate Condon on even strength. Condon was assisted by Erik Haula and Zach Budish
At the end of a crazy second period, Minnesota was down 3-1 and up in shots 24-16. Each team was 1-1 on completed power plays. BSU’s Matt Prappavessis was assessed an interference minor at 19:44.
Minnesota wasn't able to do much on their power play from the Prappavessis minor as the third period started, and as such, the Gophers were down a goal but fighting hard.
Minnesota was intent on finding a soft spot in BSU's defensive coverage, but as five minutes in the third ticked away, Minnesota had the first six shots of the period.
Minnesota's Travis Boyd had a shot attempt as he was going to his knees at the 14:27 mark. He presumably was tripped but it was not called as such in the eyes of zebras watching over the game.
The game was getting into the nitty-gritty a bit earlier as planned, but the game also had that "one-bounce" feel. As if on cue, at 7:38, Minnesota's AJ Michaelson tied the game at three. Erik Haula and Zach Budish assisted on the even strength goal.
Even after the goal, you could tell that Minnesota was still buzzing as if they were bees that were looking for honey. The student section was alive and well...simply lying in wait.
The next six minutes plus would go without a goal, so it was up to the final minutes of regulation to decide if the series would be extended.
Shots were 39-22 to Minnesota through 58:00, and yet, there was still no resolve to the deadlock.
At 19:07, the student section waited no longer as Ben Marshall scored on even strength to give the Gophers a 4-3 lead. Marshall was unassisted.
Shots at the end of the game favored Minnesota 41-22, while BSU was 1-1 on power plays and Minnesota was 1-2.
Minnesota, as the #2 seed, will play in the second WCHA semifinal on Friday at 7pm. FOX Sports North will have the game, and I'll have coverage of both WCHA quarterfinal games on the national page Thursday at 2pm and 7pm.
Geoff Discher is Examiner.com's Minnesota Golden Gophers Hockey Examiner as well as the National College Hockey Examiner. Leave a comment below, or feel free to reach him at Disch61@hotmail.com with comments, story ideas, or any general talk surrounding college hockey. You can find him on Facebook as well by clicking here as well as here and joining the conversation from the social media side as well. He's always chock full of fact and opinion. I’m also on Twitter @GophHkyExmnr. Check it out!
Until next time, I'll see you at the rink!