SENIOR goaltender Kent Patterson (photo courtesy of Paul Rovnak)

Gophers Hockey: Minnesota Dominates St. Cloud State 5-0 Saturday

SB Nation Minnesota previews this weekend's home-and-home series between top-ranked Gophers hockey team and St. Cloud State. For more Gophers coverage, check out The Daily Gopher.

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Bjugstad's Hat Trick & Patterson's Record 6th Shutout Fuel Gophers To 5-0 Victory

For all the changes that Minnesota hockey head coach Don Lucia made Saturday night, the two most consistent players inspired the Maroon and Gold to a 5-0 Saturday shutout over St. Cloud State and a split in the two game home-and-home series. Of course, two separate occasions of scoring two goals in less than a minute doesn't hurt either.

Minnesota (11-3-0, 8-2-0 WCHA) made numerous line changes among their forwards in an attempt to reignite a stalled offensive against the Huskies (6-6-2, 4-3-1 WCHA). Every line besides the top line of Kyle Rau, Nick Bjugstad and Kyle Rau featured some new wrinkle after the top-nine went unchanged throughout the first thirteen games.

Despite that, it was Bjugstad and senior goaltender Kent Patterson - who has played in every game - took their game to a different level. Nick Bjugstad propelled himself to second in the nation in goal with his first career hat trick and Patterson made 30 saves for his school-record sixth shutout this season. However, tonight's victory was a team effort as 11 different players had points.

"I had puck luck tonight," Bjugstad said. "I didn't have that many shots and they were going in."

The sophomore forward got the Gophers on the board eight minutes into the game as he shot a wrister over St. Cloud State goalie Ryan Faragher's shoulder into the back of the net. The scoring continued just 44 seconds later with Jake Hansen breaking out of a slump and getting his fifth goal of the season. Minnesota had issues scoring on odd-man rushes in St. Cloud Friday so Hansen converting on a 2x1 early in the game at Mariucci Arena was big for the team.

It wasn't a total domination by the Gophers. St. Cloud State had golden chances to get ahead early in the game. The Huskies whiffed on two backdoor passes which would have kept them in the game and had a couple opportunities denied by puck luck. Despite that, Patterson made some great saves when the time was needed; including a pair on St. Cloud State junior Ben Hanowski early in the second period.

"The team played great," said Patterson. "Defensively we did a great job, especially on the penalty kill. We shut them down and cleared pucks out."

After a scoreless second period - the fifth consecutive middle stanza which the Gophers have failed to score - Minnesota once again outplayed the Huskies and scored three goals in the third period for the second consecutive Saturday. Although the Huskies were able to keep them at bay throughout the second to the point where St. Cloud State out-shot the Gophers 21-19 after 40 minutes, Taylor Matson set the tone thirty seconds into the third. The senior captain was on fire everywhere but the scoresheet and was robbed by a lunging Faragher moving from his right to left.

With the Huskies' freshman goalie continuing to play beyond his years, it took Minnesota's power play waking up to put the final dagger in St. Cloud State. After going 3 for 31 in the last 14 periods, Nick Bjugstad went 2 for 2 by himself in the first 5:42 of the third period to give the Gophers their first hat trick since Jay Barriball had one against Massachusetts on October 9, 2010. Both goals were scored within 2:30 of each other and scored from almost the same spot near the bottom of the left circle. In fact, both came from Nate Schmidt passes.

"[The coaches] took Schmidt in and made him video last night," Bjugstad said after the game. "They noticed I was pretty open last night."

Bjugstad's goals also served as bookends to Mark Alt's second goal of the year. The sophomore defensemen ended up scoring from the high slot 33 seconds after Nick's first goal to put Minnesota up by four goals before the final margin was reached and Kent Patterson put himself in elite company.

Patterson's sixth shutout of the season broke a tie with Rob Stauber and gave the senior the Minnesota school record. Although he has only played in 14 games this season, Patterson has already had more shutouts than anyone in college hockey all of last season. The collegiate record is ten, held by former Michigan State and current Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller, and at the rate the Gophers goalie is playing he could end up breaking that.

When asked about that, Kent Patterson said that "it's a long season and I have to take it one game at a time."

And Patterson is right. In the end, the Maroon and Gold played well for sixty minutes and took this game as it was. Despite losing Friday night, Minnesota ends up with two points for the weekend and maintain first place in the WCHA. Most importantly, they've once again proven that the University of Minnesota hockey team is capable of righting the ship.

For all the changes which the Gophers underwent and all the accolades they received tonight, it's tough to say that factis not the most important.. 

The Gophers travel to East Lansing, Michigan next weekend to face the Michigan State Spartans Friday and Saturday. Both games start at 6 PM Central and air on Fox Sports North. For more Gophers coverage, check out The Daily Gopher.

SB Nation Minnesota 3 Stars:

1. Nick Bjugstad (3 goals)
2. Kent Patterson (30 saves, 6th shutout)
3. Taylor Matson (1 assist, persistent play)

Other notes:
-The Gophers wore their gold third jerseys for the first time this season.

-Seth Ambroz was injured and helped off the ice during the second period on an apparent knee on knee collision with St. Cloud State's David Eddy. He did return in the third period.

-Minnesota improved to 6-0-0 on Saturday games.


Gophers Hockey: St. Cloud State Beats Minnesota 4-3 Friday Behind Faragher's 40 Saves

For the second straight week, a mediocre effort on Friday night doomed the top-ranked Gophers.

After creating chances throughout the first 50 minutes of the game but not converting, two late goals by Tom Serratore and Kyle Rau weren't enough as St. Cloud State (6-5-2, 4-2-1 WCHA) beat Minnesota (10-3-0, 7-2-0 WCHA) 4-3.  Ryan Faragher, a freshman who took over the starting goaltender job when Mike Lee was sidelined with a lower body injury, continued his outstanding play by turning away 40 shots and Ben Hanowski added a goal and two assists for the Huskies.

Hanowski put Minnesota in a hole early as the junior scored on Gophers goalie Kent Patterson 3:52 into the game. The goal, which was a result of a Ben Marshall turnover, gave St. Cloud State confidence that they and the boisterous National Hockey Center crowd did not give up all night. Nick Bjugstad tied the game at one for Minnesota eight minutes later but Faragher and the Huskies were able to keep them in check despite being outshot in the first period 17-7.

Penalties played a large role in the opening twenty minutes. Bjugstad's tenth goal came on the man advantage right after a 5x3 expired. St. Cloud State had their own two-man advantage towards the end of the period and made the most of it. With Nick Larson going off for unsportsmanlike conduct and Nate Condon already in the box for tripping, Hanowski was able thread a cross-ice pass through to Cam Reid and he did not miss the wide-open net to make it 2-1 St. Cloud State after one.

The second period was all Huskies as Faragher stopped multiple chances and Minnesota missed a few more. Offensively St. Cloud State added two goals in the first 7:12 to make it 4-1. In what has been a rare occurrence this season, Patterson gave up a big rebound to a wide-open Nic Dowd and he made the senior goalie pay for his 5th goal of the season.

Jared Festler added what ended up being the winning goal two and a half minutes later. Hanowski once again caught the Gophers penalty kill napping as he fed a wide-open Festler and the Little Falls native did the rest. Festler was able to go against the grain on an overaggressive Patterson and his move paid off for the Huskies.

Minnesota was finally able to get past Faragher in the third period after a few more missed chances. With 5:01 left, Tom Serratore tipped a Ben Marshall shot through his legs and past the St. Cloud State goalie. That goal, along with the Huskies going into a shell, gave the Gophers a second wind and Kyle Rau added his ninth goal of the season two minutes later. Rau scored in the middle of a scrum right in front of Faragher and his second effort made the difference.

Unfortunately for the Gophers, there was not enough second effort for most of the game. Minnesota had plenty of opportunities - they outshot St. Cloud State 43-18 - but could not take advantage of them like the Huskies. Special teams, which has been a strength all season, was also an issue Friday. Minnesota was only able to go 1-5 on the power play while St. Cloud State scored twice in five chances and made their in-state rivals pay for bad penalties.

In the end, what best sums up the game for Minnesota is the Huskies' third goal. After a Gophers scoring chance resulted in an odd-man rush the other way for St. Cloud State, Zach Budish made a great backcheck to break up the chance. However, that was not the end of the play and while Budish and Minnesota stood around, the Huskies were able to get the puck and an open man scored on a rebound. 

Unfortunately for Minnesota, they aren't going to win too many games standing around.

The two teams meet again at Mariucci Arena tonight at 7:00 PM. The game is on the Fox Sports North Alternate Channel. For more Gophers coverage be sure to check out The Daily Gopher.

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