Minnesota and Bemidji State started the WCHA playoffs in grand style at Mariucci Arena on Friday in Minneapolis. Adam Wilcox started the return series in net for Minnesota with Andrew Walsh getting the nod for Bemidji State.
The first couple of minutes of play really was focused on trying to figure out weaknesses, which was tougher than normal seeing as the Beavers and Gophers played last weekend. There wasn’t even a shot on goal through the first two minutes.
Nate Schmidt got the first shot on goal for Minnesota, and the Gophers were really buzzing in the first quarter of the opening period, getting a 3-0 edge in shots through 3:08. At that moment, Minnesota earned its first power play of the game when Bemidji State had too many men on the ice.
The Gophers came out of the gate stirring, but were unable to do anything in the goal department with their first opportunity of the night. Would it be a sign of things to come? You could make the case that the game was to be low-scoring, and it certainly was through the first six minutes.
Through 11:30, shots were 8-2 in favor of Minnesota, and yet the game was still scoreless. Simply put, the Beavers weren’t getting any chances as the Gopher defense buckled down and kept BSU to the perimeter.
As the end of the opening period came, shots were 14-3 in Minnesota’s favor. There was no score and Minnesota was 0-1 on the power play.
Early on in the second period, the stalemate continued to fester, and the Mariucci faithful were not pleased. Shots were 2-0 in Minnesota’s favor through the first five minutes of the period, but neither of those chances were “grade-A” type, so the stalemate still existed.
One observation about the second quarter of the second period shined out, and that was that Minnesota could not make passes to save their hind ends. That was, until 6:56. At 6:56, Ben Marshall lit the lamp on even strength with an assist going to Kyle Rau on the goal.
Shots were 20-4 in Minnesota’s favor at the 31:00 mark overall, and though the Gophers had the 1-0 lead, the game reverted back into its slow, snail like pace.
At the 34:06 mark Adam Wilcox made the biggest stop of the night on a Beaver breakaway opportunity, which would’ve beaten any other goalie. As the second period would wind down, it was interesting to see how Bemidji worked, or, tried to work in their offensive zone. The Beavers, down 26-6 in shots on goal, were simply struggling and gasping for breath that had been drawn out of them.
As forty minutes wound down in a game that had serious pace in parts and not so serious pace in others, shots finished up 26-7 and Minnesota was still 0-1 on power plays, without a single penalty in the second frame.
The third period was more physical in nature with each team making hits and playing physical hockey without committing a penalty in the first few minutes. Radoslav Illo committed a hooking minor at 14:14 in the third to give Minnesota it's second power play of the game.
When the Gophers couldn't score, there were signs that Minnesota would escape with victory in regulation. However, at 19:22, Bemidji State's Brance Orban scored with an extra attacker, tying the game and getting assists from Radoslav Illo and Jeff Jubinville.
Power plays after regulation had Minnesota at 0-2, with shots favoring the Gophers 41-11.
The first minute of overtime had action on both sides of the ice, and it was the first of a potential twenty-minute overtime canto at Mariucci.
Play was fast and frenetic knowing that one goal was needed to escape with a win. There was one problem: neither team could score said goal.
Shots were 50-16 through seventy minutes of play to Minnesota, and the next goal still hadn’t come.
Finally, at 13:18, Minnesota scored the winner, as Kyle Rau scored on even strength. Rau was assisted by Nate Schmidt and Christian Isackson. Shots at the end of the game finished 51-18 to Minnesota, which was the first time Minnesota had fifty plus shots in a game since December of 2010.
Game two of the Beavers-Gophers series is scheduled for Saturday at 7pm. FOX Sports North will have the game.
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!