It’s been said before that good teams find ways to win games. Well folks, the Minnesota Golden Gophers hockey team found a way to win a dandy on the road in Duluth.
After Minnesota Duluth’s Justin Crandall scored with two minutes left in the third period to make it 4-3 Bulldogs, it appeared to complete a two goal comeback for the #9 ranked Bulldogs. The fans at Amsoil Arena were going nuts and my Twitter feed was starting to get filled with the usual anti-Gophers remarks when they lose.
That all changed 1:16 later when Erik Haula scored his second goal of the night to tie the game at 4. The goal, which deflected off of a Bulldog skate, brought momentum back to Minnesota. Although Minnesota Duluth had a couple chances in overtime due to a Nate Schmidt giveaway in front of the net, it was an ill-advised no look pass by the Bulldogs which resulted in Condon batting in the winning goal out of mid air with 57 seconds left in the game.
The #14 ranked Gophers did not look out of place against the defending national champions. They came out strong in the first period and were able to be physical and use their speed to create penalties. Despite only going 3 for 11 on the power play against Sacred Heart, special teams made the difference as Haula and Kyle Rau scored power play goals to give Minnesota a 2-0 lead.
Haula’s first goal came 4:55 into the game when he took a Nate Schmidt pass and shot a laser from the right circle. The second goal wasn’t as pretty as Rau scored on the doorstep after a 5×3 expired for Minnesota.
Going 2 for 3 on the power play and killing a penalty at the end of the first period was the difference for the Gophers as the Bulldogs had a couple opportunities. Unfortunately momentum shifted after the penalty, a Seth Helgeson double minor for roughing, and Minnesota Duluth took over in the second period.
Kent Patterson’s 145 minute shutout streak to start the season ended when Caleb Herbert underssed Ben Marshall with a deke and shot one past the Gophers goalie. The Bulldogs tied the game up a minute later after a questionable checking from behind penalty for Zach Budish (which carries a five minute major and an ejection from the game) but things evened up after Luke McManus received the same penalty. Rau then scored his second power play goal, which was similar to the first goal, at 10:59 before defenseman Drew Olson scored his first goal of the season late in the period to tie the game at 3.
As good as Minnesota looked at times, they cannot afford to have too many second periods like Friday. The Bulldogs carried momentum the entire period outside of killing penalties and were able to outwork the Gophers at their game. Despite the chippy nature of the game, Minnesota Duluth forechecked hard and forced the young Minnesota defenseman to make bad decisions. Ben Marshall, Justin Holl and Nate Schmidt all had terrible giveaways and were unable to get to pucks they did against Sacred Heart.
However it was exciting to see the Gophers be physical and throw their bodies around. The lack of physical play has been one of the biggest knocks on Minnesota over the last few years and one method teams have used to beat them. That is not the case this year and between the physical play and Nate Condon completing a comeback on the road, this year’s Minnesota team is finding ways to win which recent teams wouldn’t.
Saturday’s game starts at 7 PM and will be aired on Fox Sports North alternate channel. Check your local cable or satellite for the channel or see the list here. If Friday night was any indication, the bad blood and ninety-four combined shots between Gophers and Bulldogs players should make for an exciting game two.