Going into Saturday night’s game at the National Hockey Center, there were two clear sides or three if you look closely. You had those Gopher fans who thought Zach Budish should’ve had at least two goals on Friday, the Huskies fans who wanted to split the series with Minnesota, and those Gopher supporters who were clamoring to the idea of an in-state sweep on the weekend. Saturday would bring the same matchup in net as Minnesota’s Adam Wilcox strutted out against St. Cloud’s Ryan Faragher. An added bonus for Minnesota saw Jake Parenteau as an extra defenseman, meaning the Gophers dressed twenty-one players.
At the forty-two second mark, Minnesota’s Nate Condon put the first shot on goal which was easily waffled away by Faragher, but the shots kept on coming if you’ll excuse the turn of phrase. Cory Thorson took the first Husky shot on goal barely ninety seconds in.
The pace of play from Friday to Saturday started the same way—quick, and with frequent shot attempts. Shots through 2:30 favored Minnesota 4-1, and that stat only counts shots on goal. The play was physical, but not physical enough to draw the ire of zebras. The pace kept up in strength as the play would be focused at the ends of the ice in the early going.
The first goal of the game on Friday came from Nick Bjugstad just short of nine minutes in, and it was interesting to see both the Gophers and Huskies work for first blood early Saturday night. At the second television timeout barely eleven minutes in, we were without a goal and shots were 7-5 in favor of Minnesota. Seven different Gophers had shots on goal to that point.
The first penalties of the game came at 13:55, and Minnesota would send Ben Marshall to the box for roughing, while SCSU would get a goaltender interference call lobbied against Jonny Murray. The ensuing time was spent with four skaters a side, but could not break the deadlock at zero.
Shots were 10-6 in favor of the Gophers as 15:47 elapsed, and both goaltenders were on par with save after save after save.
At 16:42, Minnesota earned the first power play of the game after St. Cloud State was caught with a bad change and too many men on the ice. However, the Gopher power play would come up empty and the teams would go to the locker rooms scoreless. Shots on goal through twenty minutes had Minnesota in the drivers’ seat by a 12-7 margin.
The first two minutes of second period action didn’t ease the intensity felt at the National Hockey Center in St. Cloud. Finally, at 2:39 of the second period, St. Cloud State lit the lamp first as Joey Holka scored on even strength. Holka was assisted by Garrett Milan and Ryan Faragher. You read that right: the goaltender was credited with a secondary assist. The goal by Holka was his third of the season.
Minnesota would face adversity as the second period wore on towards the midway point of the game. The Gophers would slowly ratchet up pressure in the St. Cloud defensive zone, but St. Cloud State was step for step with Minnesota. Shots were 17-10 as twenty-seven minutes came and went in the favor of the Gophers. But, the Gophers couldn’t score to save their hind ends.
Something critical to notice that the Gophers weren’t doing well at the game’s midway point was the ability to make a pass. It simply wasn’t there, and as such, Minnesota reverted to a dump and chase type game.
Later in the second period, Minnesota was getting passes together in the SCSU zone, but shots were still 18-12 to the Gophers as the 34:00 mark passed. The physical play sure picked up as the second period entered its final stages.
At 17:48 of the second period, St. Cloud State made it 2-0 on a Nic Dowd even strength goal. Dowd was assisted by Jonny Murray and Kevin Gravel. Shortly thereafter, at 18:06, SCSU sent Nick Jensen and Drew LeBlanc in the sin bin for charging and boarding respectively. During the five on three advantage, St. Cloud State’s Ryan Faragher was impressive up until the 19:09 mark. On the power play, Nate Schmidt scored the first Gopher goal of the night. Schmidt was assisted by Erik Haula and Zach Budish. Seconds later, at 19:28, the two-man advantage was negated when Nate Condon would go to the bin for interference.
Shots at the end of two periods had Minnesota ahead 27-15 through forty minutes. Minnesota was also 1-3 on completed power plays.
The third period started with a St. Cloud State power play of eighty-two seconds in length.The Gophers still trailed despite killing off the penalty to Condon, and Minnesota needed to get dirty in the trenches if they wanted to salvage a series sweep.
At 3:50 in the third, Jonny Brodzinski gave St. Cloud State a two-goal lead, firing a shot past Adam Wilcox. The goal came on even strength, and Brodzinski was assisted by Nick Jensen and Nic Dowd. Shots were 29-17 in favor of Minnesota with fifteen minutes left, so it was clear that Minnesota was shooting. The Gophers weren't scoring, however.
The interesting thing about the first six minutes of the third period was simple: the play was penalty-less. At 6:39 in the third, SCSU's Drew LeBlanc took a breakaway chance and potted a puck past Adam Wilcox with even strength assists going to Kalle Kossila and Kevin Gravel.
The game, in earnest, was over, or so everyone thought. At 10:08, however, Minnesota earned a power play as Taylor Johnson put the Huskies in the box for unsportsmanlike conduct. Nick Bjugstad would score a power play goal at 10:53 with assists coming from Zach Budish and Nate Schmidt. Let me not remind you that a two-goal lead is the most dangerous lead in hockey.
At 14:26, Nate Condon scored on even strength to bring the Gophers to within one. Condon was assisted by Mark Alt and Mike Reilly.
As the game entered its stretch run, Minnesota was working hard to tie the game but time was against the visitors. With eighty-five seconds left in the game, Minnesota pulled its goaltender (Wilcox). Minnesota's Zach Budish took what amounted to be a stupid hooking penalty at 19:35, thereby giving SCSU their second power play.
When the dust settled, seven goals were scored in the final forty minutes, averaging a goal every 5.7 minutes. Shots finished 39-21 to Minnesota, with power plays having Minnesota go 2-4 and St. Cloud State go 0-2.
Minnesota travels to Madison next weekend to face off with the Badgers. Friday's game is on FOX Sports North with a 7pm start time. Sunday's outdoor game in Chicago has a 3:30pm start (after Notre Dame-Miami) on Big Ten Network.
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!