Nathan Condon celebrating a Gophers goal

Gophers Hockey Sweep Sacred Heart To Open 2011-2012 Season

Ongoing coverage of this weekend's college hockey opener between the Minnesota Gophers and Sacred Heart Pioneers

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Gophers Hockey: Minnesota Defeats Sacred Heart 6-0 Behind Kent Patterson's Second Shutout

For one weekend at least, the University of Minnesota can claim to have the best offense AND defense in college hockey.

After massacring Sacred Heart 9-0 Friday night, the Gophers once again shut out the Pioneers 6-0 behind stellar goaltending by Kent Patterson and Erik Haula’s two goals. Patterson, who before this season had never recorded a shutout, now has two in two games.

Of course Sacred Heart is no Minnesota Duluth, the defending national champions and next week’s opponent, but with seven freshmen and redshirt sophomore Zach Budish returning from a season-ending ACL injury there’s nothing wrong with having a warmup.

Head coach Don Lucia said after the game, “it’s good to have these games to gain experience.”

Minnesota started the game sluggish as they were unable to control the flow of play and turned the puck over in their zone multiple times. The Gophers also failed to convert on a 3 on 1 opportunity and were being out-shot by Sacred Heart despite having and failing to score on a two minute 5 on 3 power play.

Momentum shifted back to Minnesota as freshman Sam Warning put the Gophers on the board with his second goal in as many nights. The Missouri native scored on the edge of the left crease 12:12 into the game off of a Jake Hansen rebound for the first of Hansen’s four assists. Erik Haula then made it 2-0 late in the period putting a laser past a stickless Sacred Heart goalie Andrew Bodnarchuk with forty seconds left.

The second period began with a missed fifty second power play opportunity but two goals in twenty-seven seconds by Ben Marshall and Taylor Matson, who roofed a backhand over Bodnarchuk on a breakaway, put the game out of reach for Sacred Heart at 4-0.

Minnesota’s power play has been a point of weakness this season, starting the year 1 for 9, but the Gophers were able to convert on two opportunities in the third period. Budish scored the first goal 5:32 into the period with assists by freshmen Warning and Nate Schmidt. Haula then completed off a third period in which the Gophers out-shot Sacred Heart 15-4 with his second goal of the night to complete the 6-0 shutout for Kent Patterson.

After the game, the Gophers goalie credited the defense stating he was surprised with the back check and effort from his teammates. Despite that, Patterson was a rock between the pipes stopping multiple grade A opportunities for the Pioneers.

Coach Lucia also praised Patterson’s performance, stating that “he has to be our backbone.”

With smaller defensemen like Aaron Ness and Cade Fairchild graduated, the larger defensive corps the Gophers have this year compared to recent season helps, but the key to this year’s team seems to be speed. Many of the freshmen like Warning, Kyle Rau and defensemen Ben Marshall (who is a ringer for Ness down to wearing his #10) have been able to use their speed and aggression to get to pucks and make plays,

There are plenty of positives to take away from this weekend with two shutout victories, but the real challenge for Minnesota starts next week. While the Gophers once again showed their depth with the first line only scoring one goal, special teams remains a pressing issue. The team also had a lapse in the second period losing 6 of 23 face-offs and weren’t able to control the game at times against a subpar Pioneers squad.

But one thing is for sure: starting the season with two shutouts and having the largest series goal differential in nine years is a great way to start the season.

The Gophers hit the road next weekend as they face the defending national champions the University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs at Amsoil Arena. Both games start at 7 PM and are televised on Fox Sports North.

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Gophers Hockey: Minnesota Routs Sacred Heart 9-0 In Friday Night Opener

If only every game could end like this.

In a game which bordered on domination at times, the University of Minnesota beat Sacred Heart 9-0 at Mariucci Arena. The Gophers took no time to get on the board with Kyle Rau scoring just 56 seconds into the game to put Minnesota up 1-0. Rau, a true freshman, was all over the ice early in the game and showed he belonged on the top line as Minnesota head coach Don Lucia remarked after the game that “it was no surprise [Rau] was the first goal scorer.”

Penalties doomed Minnesota throughout the rest of the first period as the Gophers took three in a ten minute stretch. While Sacred Heart had opportunities, Minnesota goaltender Kent Patterson stood tall as the period ended with the Gophers ahead 1-0.

Minnesota’s sloppiness with the puck and taking bad penalties seemed to fix itself as the second period wore on. Although Jake Hansen was able to score 5:26 in the second off of a slapshot from the right circle, the Gophers really took over halfway through the period. Sophomore Nick Bjugstad, sophomore Erik Haula and freshman Sam Warning all scored goals within a four minute stretch that took the wind out of the Pioneers’ sails. Haula’s goal was especially great as the team was able to take advantage of a 4 on 1 opportunity and give Minnesota a 4-0 lead after two periods.

Minnesota dominated the third period as Nick Bjugstad scored his second goal 48 seconds into the period. Tom Serratore made it 7-0 on a tip-in from defenseman Blake Thompson while the final two goals were scored by freshman forward Seth Ambroz. Ambroz, who played well all night, was finally rewarded by scoring two goals which traveled a combined ten feet. Freshman Travis Boyd almost gave Minnesota in the closing seconds their first double digit game in seven years but missed an open net; forcing the Gophers to settle with a 9-0 win.

Although the scoreboard shows a 9-0 win, Minnesota still has work to do on the ice. The Gophers went 1-6 on the power play and at times relied on Patterson to bail out sloppy plays. Their penalty kill left something to be desired which is a little alarming after finishing last season 11th in the penalty kill. It was clear that Sacred Heart was not on the same level as Minnesota but the Gophers face the defending national champions Minnesota Duluth next weekend. While the team was able to play better in the neutral zone and get the Pioneers to turn pucks over, that won’t work against the Bulldogs.

Then again, to see eight even-strength goals, a 2:1 shot advantage, strong play from the six freshmen and all four lines scoring is nothing to be ashamed. I was impressed with the effort of the fourth line (Tom Serratore, Travis Boyd and Nico Sacchetti) were making a big difference on both ends of the ice being pests for the Sacred Heart players; even when the game was out of hand. It’s more than anyone expected and the type of play which has been missing from recent Gophers teams.

The Gophers play Sacred Heart again tomorrow night while Coach Lucia promises to play some of the healthy scratches. The game will not be televised due to the Wild’s season opener but will be broadcast on the radio at ESPN 1500.

Stats of the night:
-Minnesota outshot Sacred Heart 47-20; including 19-5 in the second period.
-All four lines scored at least one goal.
-Minnesota won 67% of faceoffs with Taylor Matson winning 14 of 17 and Travis Boyd winning 7 of 10.
-Seven different Minnesota players scored
-Kent Patterson, a junior, finally had his first shutout as a Golden Gopher.

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