Nathan Condon, who scored three times against UMD, celebrating a Gophers goal (photo courtesy of Paul Rovnak)

Gophers Hockey: Vermont Beats Minnesota 5-4 Sunday

With a sweep of Minnesota Duluth last week, the 4-0 Gophers hockey team looks to avoid a letdown in their first ever meeting with the University of Vermont.

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Four Goal Second Period By Vermont Dooms Minnesota In 5-4 Loss

As the University of Minnesoa hockey team found out Sunday, in college hockey teams really are only as good as their last game.

After defeating the University of Vermont 6-0 Friday night, the eighth-ranked Golden Gophers (4-1-0, 2-0-0 WCHA) suffered their first loss of the season; falling to the Catamounts 5-4 Sunday. Connor Brickley and Sebastian Stalberg scored two goals each for Vermont (1-1-0, 0-0-0 Hockey East) as three goals in a three minute stretch late in the second period and undisciplined play proved to be the difference.

Things started off well for Minnesota as the maroon and gold got on the board first 12:18 into the game. Sophomore Justin Holl scored his first goal of the season - and only the second by a defenseman - on a low shot from the blue line.

The Gophers were able to control the pace for most of the first period as they out-shot the Catamounts 15-7 despite two Blake Thompson penalties, but momentum shifted in Vermont's favor late in the opening twenty minutes. Connor Brickley nearly tied the score after redirecting a rebound with his skate past goaltender Kent Patterson with 1:11 left in the period. However, the goal was waved off after being reviewed as referees determined he kicked it in.

Brickley finally tied the game 4:07 into the second period as the sophomore one-timed a pass from teammate Matt White. The goal ended Patterson's Mariucci shutout streak after three-plus games and 210 minutes going back to Minnesota's loss to Alaska-Anchorage in March.

Two quick goals by senior Jake Hansen and sophomore Nate Schmidt gave Minnesota a 3-1 lead. Hansen scored his third goal this season just twelve seconds after Vermont tied the game after tipping an Erik Haula shot. Schmidt followed up 5:26 into the period with his first goal as a Golden Gopher after he had a power play shot deflect off a Catamount defender past goaltender Rob Madore.

Despite the two goals, undisciplined play by the Gophers continued to put them in a hole they could not dig out. After being out-muscled and not showing up Friday, Vermont tried to be more physical Sunday and it paid off as the Gophers let them get under their skin. Minnesota was thrown off of their game and had 14 minutes of penalties in the second period. Many of them, including a double minor by Seth Ambroz where he committed two separate penalties on the same play and two retaliation minors, were unnecessary.

All those penalties finally took their toll on an over-extended Gopher penalty kill. While Minnesota was able to kill off the four minutes given to Ambroz, Connor Brickley and Sebastian Stalberg were able to score on Patterson with the man advantage. After going 0-6 Friday, Vermont finally was able to move the puck and get opportunities. Chris McCarthy added a goal thirty-seven seconds after Brickley's second goal and the Catamounts led 4-3 after two periods.

Stalberg's second goal 7:07 into the third period ended up being the difference as despite Kyle Rau's sixth goal of the year, Minnesota was unable to make a late comeback and ended up with a split in the two-game series.

In the end, Vermont was able to earn their first win of the season by overcoming the issues which plagued them Friday night. Madore shook off giving up five goals on nineteen shots and ended up with thirty-one saves, the defense cut back on the number of giveaways and the top Catamount forwards were able to get shots on net and scored all five goals after having six shots in the final two periods Friday.

Most importantly, by being physical and getting Minnesota off of their game, the Catamounts have showed other teams a gameplan for how to beat Minnesota.

The good news for the Gophers after Sunday's letdown is that like Vermont found out, there is always another game.

Gophers hockey returns to WCHA play next weekend (October 28-29) as Minnesota travels to Anchorage to face the University of Alaska-Anchorage. Both games start at 10 PM Central but will not be broadcast by Fox Sports North. They can be heard, however, on ESPN 1500.

SB Nation Minnesota's 3 Stars:
1. Connor Brickley [UVM] (2 goals)
2. Sebastian Stalberg [UVM] (2 goals)
3. Erik Haula [UMN] (3 assists, now tied for the national lead in college hockey with 14 points)

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Gophers Hockey: Early Goals Set Pace As Minnesota Routs Vermont 6-0

Friday was a good night to be a Gophers fan. Well, unless you were Culver’s.

For the third time in three home games, Minnesota (5-0-0, 2-0-0 WCHA) scored five or more goals and sent the Mariucci faithful home with a free frozen custard as the Gophers beat the Vermont Catamounts 6-0. In fact, it’s the first time since 2001-2002 that the maroon and gold have scored five straight goals in their first five games.

Of course, most Gophers fans know what happened that season as Minnesota went on win a national title.

Minnesota once again got off to a quick start with Kyle Rau scoring his fifth goal this season just 44 seconds into the game. That was followed by fellow freshman Sam Warning’s third goal three minutes later. Both goals were created by Jake Hansen’s tireless play as the senior was able to force giveaways in the Catamount zone and cycle the puck.

The Gophers were undisciplined after their early barrage of goals with the team taking three penalties in the last ten minutes of the first period. Minnesota’s penalty kill, which has been outstanding all season, killed all three and Nick Bjugstad took advantage of a rare even strength stretch to give Minnesota a 3-0 first period lead. The sophomore from Blaine scored a wrister that went between the legs of Vermont goalie Rob Madore with 4:34 left in the period.

“Our defense improved from last weekend and had better gap play” said Gophers head coach Don Lucia after the game, who was pleased with how the defense and penalty kill played.

Taylor Matson gave Minnesota a 4-0 lead as he scored off of a cross-ice pass from Nate Condon 7:20 into the second period. Bjugstad then chased Madore, who gave up five goals on nineteen shots, from the game with his second goal of the night; a one-timer from a Kyle Rau pass.

“We didn’t know much about [Vermont] but our team wanted to keep from having a letdown,” said Bjugstad.

Zach Budish, the linemate of Bjugstad and Rau, completed the scoring by getting the lone Gophers power play goal with 6:07 left in the second. Budish’s goal was helped by freshman Seth Ambroz creating space and drawing a Catamount defender away from Zach.

Vermont was unable to create any offense throughout the game and made it easy for junior goaltender Kent Patterson to record his third shutout of the season. Mariucci’s Olympic-size ice sheet is rare in Hockey East and the Catamounts struggled to maintain any flow.

Like the Bulldogs last weekend, Vermont struggled to get any shots from within the face-off circle. They only managed six shots in the final two periods and could not get a shot on goal in their last four power play opportunities.

When asked about maintaining composure while facing such few shots, Patterson discussed his techniques for keeping concentrated on the game; including talking to himself.

The Catamounts, who were picked to finish sixth in Hockey East, had some bright spots in the third period. Sophomore goalie Alex Vazzano was able to hold the Gophers scoreless in a period for the first time all season. He also withstood three Minnesota power plays and put himself in position to start Sunday’s game between the two teams.

The two teams got in a scuffle following the final whistle when former North Dakota forward Brett Bruneteau and the Gophers’ Jake Hansen got into it after a slash. Hansen was coy about it after the game but the action and frustration from Vermont should lead to an interesting rematch.

Or as interesting as a 6-0 Gophers victory can lend itself.

The two teams meet again at Mariucci Arena Sunday at 1 PM. The game will be broadcast on Fox Sports North so those watching the Vikings-Packers will have an option to watch Minnesota try to make it 4 for 4 with the Culver’s promotion.

SB Nation Minnesota’s 3 Stars:
1. Nick Bjugstad (2 goals)
2. Kent Patterson (17 saves)
3. Jake Hansen (2 assists and made the plays which set the pace of the game)
HM: Kyle Rau, Zach Budish

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