Gopher Goal Celebration (photo courtesy Gophers Athletics/Paul Rovnak)

Gophers Hockey: Denver Hands Minnesota Their First Sweep

For more Gophers coverage, read The Daily Gopher.

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Gophers Hockey: Shore Completes Minnesota Collapse; Denver Wins In OT 4-3

The University of Minnesota Gophers have gone the entire season without being swept in a two-game series. That is until Saturday.

Nick Shore scored twice, once with 1:26 remaining in the third and then 17 seconds into overtime, to give Denver (17-9-4, 12-6-4 WCHA) a 4-3 win and a sweep over the Gophers. Erik Haula, Zach Budish and Nico Sacchetti scored for Minnesota (19-11-1, 15-7-0 WCHA), who were 10-0 on Saturday before tonight.

One of the problems the Gophers had in last night's loss to Denver was starting off slow.They rectified that tonight as it only took 38 seconds for Haula to steal the puck and shoot over Pioneer goalie Sam Brittain's right shoulder. It was the fastest goal for Minnesota this season and the third time they've scored in the game's first minute.

The remaining 19:22 did not see the puck finding the back of the net but the road team continued to be the aggressor, out-shooting Denver 12-7 and limiting their opportunities on net. Everything that went wrong in the first period for Minnesota on Friday was taken care of Saturday.

The Pioneers made adjustments in the second period to get their offense moving but it was Zach Budish who scored first to put the Gophers ahead 2-0 with 4:43 remaining. Despite being separated from normal linemates Kyle Rau (suspended) and Nick Bjugstad (on a different line), the redshirt sophomore scored his eighth goal of the season on the power play after officials may have missed an offsides call.

Chris Knowlton gave Denver life with 2:21 remaining in the second, capitalizing on a rare error by Minnesota defenseman Justin Holl. He was able to take advantage of the breakaway opportunity and the junior shot the puck past Gopher goaltender Kent Patterson for his tenth goal of the season. Minnesota ended the second period up 2-1 but not before Patterson, who made 37 saves Saturday, ended up being bombarded by scoring chances in the final two minutes.

Denver tied the game at 2 only 2:33 into the final period after both continuing their assault from the second and getting some timely undisciplined play from Minnesota. The Gophers turned a power play to a penalty kill in fifty-one seconds with both Jake Hansen and Budish taking bad penalties away from the puck. It was only a matter of time before someone made them pay and that someone was Pioneer forward Luke Salazar tipping in a Nick Shore shot.

Nico Sacchetti scored his second goal of the season midway through the third to give second-ranked Minnesota a 3-2 lead. However, instead of continuing to try to push the pace like in other games where the team held a one goal lead in the third the Gophers seemed to be content with the lead. They let Denver spend most of the final ten minutes in the Gopher zone and the team was content to dump the puck without trying to get any offense going.

With the chances the Pioneers got, it seemed to be a matter of when, not if, they would score and a late high-sticking penalty by Holl did not help things. Minnesota's penalty kill was able to withstand the first minute but Drew Shore found brother Nick all by himself with a cross-ice pass and the freshman brought the 6,079 fans at Magness Arena to life. The tying goal took the wind out of the Gophers' sails and a hard-working rebound goal by Shore off a face-off left Minnesota one point ahead of Minnesota Duluth and pointless on the weekend.

Like last night, Denver outplayed the Gophers at what they do best. Minnesota has been dominant on both Saturdays and the third period throughout the season and they were neither against the Pioneers. Whether or not it's just head coach George Gwozdecky having Don Lucia's number - he is now 13-2-1 in the last 16 games between the two teams - they deserve bit of credit. Denver is finally getting healthy for the first season and looks to be going in the right direction after struggling last weekend against Colorado College. That might be the silver lining for Minnesota because after getting swept this weekend, it is more than possible to come back from adversity and do something about being swept for the first time all season.

They just actually need to do something about it.

Minnesota plays Bemidji State next weekend at Mariucci Arena. Both Friday and Saturday's games start at 7 PM with Friday's game is on Fox Sports North Plus and Saturday seeing the Gophers return to the main FSN channel.

For more Gopher coverage, check out The Daily Gopher. For WCHA coverage, read Western College Hockey.

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Gophers Hockey: Five Different Players Score For Denver As Pioneers Beat Minnesota 5-3

Whether it was the Friday night funk which has plagued Minnesota (19-10-1, 15-6-0 WCHA) throughout the season or the Denver Pioneers being kryptonite in the Don Lucia Era, tonight's 5-3 loss fit a pattern of Gopher hockey this season.

Five different players - Shawn Ostrow, Dustin Jackson, Nate Dewhurst, Jason Zucker and Chris Knowlton - scored for Denver (16-9-4, 11-6-4 WCHA) Friday night at Magness Arena. Nate Condon, Kyle Rau and Zach Budish scored for the Gophers but 31 saves by Sam Brittain and a sluggish opening twenty minutes doomed Minnesota.

The Gophers defense had been one of the strong points over the last month, not giving up more than two goals since a 4-3 loss to Notre Dame January 7th. Despite that, It only took 17 minutes for Denver to score three goals on senior goaltender Kent Patterson. After Nate Condon took advantage of a turnover in the neutral zone to give Minnesota a 1-0 lead nine minutes into the game, the Pioneers took over.

Out-shooting the Gophers 19-9 in the first period, it only took forty seconds for Ostrow to tie the game on a rebound which failed to be cleared out from in front of the net. Three minutes later Dustin Jackson gave Denver the lead off of a faceoff which hit defenseman Mark Alt and bounced past Patterson. Nate Dewhurst then went top-shelf to complete the three-goal first period.

The Pioneers have a lot of firepower on their top two lines with Drew Shore, Jason Zucker, Nick Shore and Luke Salazzar but all three goals were scored by the third line outworking the Minnesota defense.

Kyle Rau got the Gophers within one 1:56 into the second period to make it 3-2. His goal, assisted by Zach Budish and Nick Bjugstad, came from the crease on a Minnesota power play and looked to get the team back into the game. Unfortunately it was as close as the Gophers ever got because two minutes later Jason Zucker scored his own power play goal for Denver. Zucker's shot came from an extremely sharp angle to Patterson's left and was reminicsent to the goal Ben Hanowski scored in Minnesota's previous game.

Chris Knowlton and Budish also scored in the period to give Denver a 5-3 lead heading into the final twenty minutes. Their goals, however, were overshadowed by Kyle Rau launching himself into Zucker and leaving the Minnesota Wild draft pick motionless on the ice for several minutes. Zucker was eventually able to stand up and get helped off the ice to be looked at. He did not return.

Rau was given a five-minute major for boarding and a game misconduct.

The penalty and aftermath changed things for the Gophers. Although Minnesota killed all five minutes of the major, Knowlton scored seconds later. Budish matched it, tipping in a Seth Helgeson shot. The goal was reviewed for close to five minutes but eventually ruled good.

Minnesota looked their best in the third period but it was too little, too late for the WCHA leaders. Pioneers goalie Sam Brittain looked shaky at times - he nearly got beat by a Ben Marshall shot which hit the post - being peppered by Gopher shots. Despite that, he turned away everything in the final twenty minutes and was every bit the goaltender he was before having knee surgery.

Overall, it was far from an ideal performance for the Gophers.They had some positives like the play of Nate Condon (who continues to shine on the penalty kill and twice nearly scored his fifth shorthanded goal) and the third period but the Pioneers did a great job of taking advantage of their mistakes. Denver was able to push the pace, Minnesota's goaltending and defense looked absolutely shaky at times and the team could not give themselves a chance to win. That's been key to the Gophers when they've started slow in past games and the Pioneers deserve credit for frustrating them en route to handing the Maroon and Gold only their second loss of more than one goal.

The Pioneers never let Minnesota get settled, even in the third period, and while the Gophers are known for their scoring depth Denver one-upped them. They scored five goals from players not named Shore and were able to overcome the loss of Zucker. Not many teams can say the same and on a night which the nation saw them, Minnesota once again failed to deliver against their kryptonite.

Minnesota and Denver play again Saturday at 8 PM CT in Denver, Colorado. The game will be broadcast on Fox Sports North Plus.

For more Gopher coverage check out The Daily Gopher. For more WCHA coverage go to Western College Hockey.

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VIDEO: Kyle Rau Hits Jason Zucker; Gets Game Misconduct

The Gophers are presently losing 5-3 in the middle of the third period but one play which is sure to be discussed is Minnesota freshman Kyle Rau's (Florida Panthers) hit on Denver sophomore Jason Zucker (Minnesota Wild). The hit, which happened 6:38 into the second period after both players had scored for their teams, was violent in a night of violent hits and led to both teams skirmishing with one another.

From CJ Fogler (@cjzero):

Zucker was motionless for several minutes on the ice and his status is unknown as of now. However he did leave under his own power, much to the delight of the crowd at Magness Arena.

Rau was given a five minute major for boarding and game misconduct for the play. It didn't appear to be a check from behind and if anything Rau was guilty of charging. He will be available to play Saturday when the two teams rematch.

For more Gopher coverage check out The Daily Gopher. For more WCHA coverage go to Western College Hockey.

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