Going into the final series of the WCHA regular season, Minnesota was in contention for a WCHA crown, but the Gophers needed to do their job on Friday to head into Saturday with a chance at glory. Bemidji State looked to play spoiler, with Andrew Walsh playing in net. Adam Wilcox would counter for the Gophers.
The first shot of the weekend was lofted on goal by Minnesota’s Nick Bjugstad towards Andrew Walsh in the first sixty seconds. Justin Holl would put the next two shots on goal, and the game was scoreless early on.
One of the interesting things—no, check that—an interesting trend in the first 4:30 of play was that the game was without a penalty, and mental mistakes would be a part of the game. Both teams, at least, coming in to play on Friday, didn’t take many penalties on average. At 5:09, Minnesota’s Ben Marshall scored on even strength thanks to a tip-in. The initial shot was taken by Nate Condon, who was credited with the primary assist. Seth Helgeson was also given a secondary assist.
Shots were 6-4 in Minnesota’s favor at the 8:30 mark, and Minnesota smelled more blood. At 9:29 though, Minnesota’s Mike Reilly was assessed a hooking penalty, but not before Bemidji State’s Matt Prappavessis would score on even strength. Prappavessis had assists from Ben Kinne and Jake Areshenko.
The Bemidji power play off of the Reilly hooking call came up empty, but we had a game on our hands at the Sanford Center in Bemidji.
At 12:15, Minnesota’s power play would crank up as Sam Rendle would go off for interference. The Gopher power play was top-ranked in the country coming into play on Friday, though Bemidji State’s penalty kill was able to quell the Gophers power play. Shots at the 15:00 mark favored Bemidji State by an 8-7 margin.
As the first period would come to an end, the opening twenty minutes weren’t very physical, and each team was taking its chances. Each team was 0-1 on power plays in the first twenty minutes, with shots going 13-10 to Bemidji State. Bemidji State’s Danny Matson was called for hooking at 20:00, giving Minnesota their second power play of the night to start the middle frame.
Minnesota would earn a ninety-two second two-man advantage as Aaron McLeod got a high stick call at 0:29. Minnesota smelled blood throughout its advantage, but couldn’t fling the puck on goal until Nick Bjugstad planted one on the power play at 2:21. Bjugstad’s goal came with assists from Christian Isackson and flying Finn Erik Haula.
Shots were 15-12 in BSU’s favor as twenty-five minutes expired. BSU was busy trying to clear the puck in for offensive zone time, but the Beavers were struggling. At the halfway point, Minnesota had a 17-16 advantage in shots on goal.
The game slowed down at its midway point, as if the teams were tiring briefly. Both BSU and Minnesota picked up the pace as twelve minutes of the second period elapsed. Shots were seventeen each as 6:50 remained in the second period.
As the second period came to an end, the game settled into a grinding pace. Thirty-six shots were popped on goal as thirty-eight minutes elapsed in total, but Bemidji State still had life despite being down a goal. Just like that, Bemidji State’s Cory Ward lit the lamp at 18:17 on even strength. Ward had assists from Brady Wacker and Danny Mattson.
Ben Marshall was called for hooking at 18:17 as well, giving BSU their second power play of the game. Remember that a delayed penalty call is no longer cancelled in cases like as was the case with the Ward goal.
Minnesota was 1-3 on power plays through forty minutes, with Bemidji State going 0-1 on completed power plays. Shots were 21-19 to Bemidji State.
As the third period started, Minnesota still had seventeen seconds of power play to kill off, and the Gophers were able to do so without much trouble.
At 2:30, BSU’s Cory Ward scored his second goal of the game, on even strength with the lone assist going to Radoslaw Illo.
Nearly five minutes later, at 7:27, Minnesota’s Justin Holl tied the game at three on even strength with the assist going to AJ Michaelson. The crucial point came when BSU’s Sam Randle was called for tripping at 14:23. The Gopher power play needed thirty-one seconds, as Nick Bjugstad pocketed a power play goal off assists from Nate Schmidt and Kyle Rau.
As the game ended, shots on goal favored Minnesota 28-27, and Minnesota was also 2-4 on power plays. Bemidji State finished at 0-2 on advantages.
The Gophers and Beavers get at it tomorrow night at 7pm. FOX Sports North Plus has 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!