The University of Minnesota Golden Gophers saluting their home fans after a sweep. (photo courtesy of Gophers Athletics/Paul Rovnak)

Kyle Rau WCHA Rookie Of The Week For Performance Against Nebraska-Omaha

Kyle Rau scored twice and the Minnesota Golden Gophers were able to sweep Nebraska-Omaha with a 3-2 win Saturday. They play Wisconsin next weekend for a chance to win their first WCHA Regular Season title since 2007. For more on the Minnesota Golden Gophers, check out The Daily Gopher. You can also catch up on the WCHA and college hockey over at Western College Hockey.

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Gophers Hockey: Kyle Rau Scores Twice In 3-2 Win But Nick Bjugstad Gets Injured

Saturday's game wasn't pretty at times but the end result was one which Gopher fans can enjoy.

Despite being out-shot 29-19 and playing the final twenty minutes without leading goal scorer Nick Bjugstad, the University of Minnesota (23-11-1, 19-7-0 WCHA) got the job done against the Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks (14-14-6, 11-10-5 WCHA) and won 3-2 for their 8th sweep of the season.

Kyle Rau scored twice and Mark Alt added another for Minnesota, who withstood a late UNO charge in the final ten minutes to earn their fourth straight victory. Brent Gwidt and Matt White scored for the Mavericks in defeat.

Nebraska-Omaha looked to get off to a fast start after fading against the Gophers in the third period of Friday's game and did just that. They were able to get Minnesota on their toes throughout the first five minutes and peppered goalie Kent Patterson with shots. Tony Turgeon had a great chance which Patterson turned away before Gwint beat him on a cross-ice pass from Andrew Schmit to give the Mavericks a 1-0 lead 6:05 into the game.

Once again, penalties changed the course of the game. This time, however, the Gophers were the beneficiary and were able to get 3 first period power plays while Nebraska-Omaha had none. A 4x4 opportunity seconds after Gwint's goal saw defenseman Mark Alt skate past Andrej Sustr and tie the game 42 seconds later on his fifth goal of the season. Three minutes later Kyle Rau scored his first goal since February 10th on the power play to complete a dominant stretch for Minnesota.

Mavericks coach Dean Blais changed goalies after Rau's goal, bringing in senior John Faulkner for Ryan Massa. He wasn't at fault for either goal - although the second one went off his skate and in - but the switch brought new life for UNO.

The Gophers didn't have many offensive chances in the second period but they made them count. Rau nearly had a second goal in the opening minutes when a rebound off of a shorthanded breakaway chance looked like it was deflected in by a defenseman moments before he crashed into the net. The officials waived the goal off because of a lack of conclusive evidence. Despite that, Kyle bounced back and made sure a one-timer from Erik Haula counted at 9:20 of the period to give the Gophers a 3-1 lead heading in to the third period.

A scary moment for Gopher fans happened in the second period when sophomore forward Nick Bjugstad was hit from behind by Turgeon. Minnesota took advantage of the subsequent power play and Bjugstad was able to shake it off but was held out in the third period.

"I'll think he'll be fine," coach Don Lucia said to reporters after the game. "[Bjugstad] got dinged up a little bit. It was questionable whether he should come back in the third and we just made the decision at that point in time to look at the big picture. There's no sense risking anything for the last period of hockey this weekend."

Bjugstad's absence forced the Gophers to double-shift their centers and gave Nebraska-Omaha a chance to get back into the game. Josh Archibald looked great all night and had a couple opportunities to score that Patterson turned aside as part of his 27 saves. The senior goalie, however, was left out to dry when UNO leading scorer Matt While stole a lazy pass by Justin Holl and shot the puck through Patterson's legs with 9:21 remaining in the game.

It was the Mavericks' second shorthanded goal in as many nights.

Minnesota clamped down after that playing conservative hockey. While the team made a few defensive errors, they were able to withstand the effort by Nebraska-Omaha and take all four points this weekend.

With the win, the Gophers remain two points ahead of Minnesota-Duluth in the WCHA race and are seventh in the Pairwise.

Overall, Saturday's game wasn't the performance Lucia and company wanted. The 19 shots by Minnesota were its lowest total since they had 16 October 15th against Minnesota-Duluth, a game which they also won. It's great to see the Gophers find ways to win, especially since they've blown a few games in spite of being the better team, however there are definitely some things which stand out from Saturday's game for the wrong reasons.

In spite of that, their depth continues to be a boon for any postseason chances and getting Kyle Rau back on the scoring track never hurts. The Bjugstad news sounds promising for next weekend as well but in the end, Minnesota can be happy that when things aren't perfect they continue to find ways to still win.

Next weekend Minnesota plays Wisconsin at Mariucci Arena Friday and Saturday. Both games start at 7:00 p.m. and will be aired on Fox Sports North Plus.

For more on the Minnesota Golden Gophers, check out The Daily Gopher. You can also catch up on the WCHA and college hockey over at Western College Hockey.

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Gophers Hockey: Praise Parenteau! Minnesota Beats Nebraska-Omaha In OT 3-2

If there's a best way to score your first collegiate goal, getting the game-winner in overtime has to be near the top.

Sophomore defenseman Jake Parenteau went nearly 38 games without finding the back of the net before his slap shot beat Nebraska-Omaha (14-13-6, 11-9-5 WCHA) goaltender Ryan Massa 2:46 into overtime to give Minnesota (22-11-1, 18-7-0 WCHA) a 3-2 victory in Omaha. Sam Warning and Nick Bjugstad also scored for the Gophers with Brock Montpetit and Jayson Megna getting goals for the Mavericks.

Minnesota moved up to seventh in the Pairwise with the win and maintain a two point lead over Minnesota-Duluth with three games left in the WCHA regular season.

The Gophers continued their recent string of fast starts Friday night, out-shooting the Mavericks 11-6 in the opening period. They were all over Nebraska-Omaha, smothering them with a vicious forecheck and testing Massa early. Warning made it 1-0 5:53 into the game after defenseman Nate Schmidt found the freshman forward with a 50 foot breakout pass.

Kyle Rau hit the post late in the first but regardless, Ryan Massa continued to shine for Nebraska-Omaha en route to making 29 saves.

Although the Gophers played disciplined hockey last weekend, only having three penalties in two games, they were able to match that total in the first nineteen minutes of this weekend's series. Bad penalties, including a headbutt by Erik Haula and a retaliatory unsportsmanlike minor by Kyle Rau after Michael Young tripped Nick Bjugstad, gave the Mavericks countless chances to get back in the game.

A tripping penalty by Jake Hansen was finally the catalyst for Brock Montpetit to get his sixth goal right as the two-minute power play expired 7:51 into the second period.

Less than four minutes later, Jayson Megna scored his twelfth goal of the season to give Nebraska-Omaha a 2-1 lead. Minnesota goalie Kent Patterson played well Friday, making 22 saves, but was once again beat high on the glove side for a goal.

Down a goal in spite of out-shooting the Mavericks after forty minutes 19-18, Minnesota turned it on in the third period. As the period went on, Massa continued to stop Gopher chances and odd-man rushes and UNO's defense used its size well to push around Minnesota's forwards. Nick Bjugstad, however, was able to tie the game at 2 just over 4 minutes into the final period. The Florida Panthers prospect scored his 23rd goal of the season on a backhand shot which found its way between Zach Budish and the net.

As the final minutes of regulation wound down, the Mavericks began to tire while Minnesota spent multiple 60-90 second stretches in the Nebraska-Omaha zone. Matt White had a good chance on Patterson with 30 seconds remaining in regulation but other than that it became of whether or not they could hold off the Gophers and salvage a point. It wasn't meant to be and Parenteau sent the often vocal road fans in Omaha out of Century Link Center happy.

Although the Gophers ended up with the two points and looked dominant at times Friday, it wasn't their best performance. It's never easy to win on the road in the WCHA but they gave Nebraska-Omaha too many opportunities to get back in the game with bad penalties and questionable decisions. A few players, especially Rau, were thrown off their games by the Mavericks defense and as the season winds down with single-elimination conference and national tournaments one good goalie like Ryan Massa can win those important games.

Then again, Minnesota was able to come back from a 2-1 third period deficit and out-play a good UNO team when the time called for it. That's the type of game it was Friday and the rematch should bring the best out of both teams.

However regardless of which way you look at the proverbial glass, this game will be one that Jake Parenteau will never forget.

Minnesota and Nebraska-Omaha play again tomorrow at the Century Link Center in Omaha. Saturday's rematch begins at 7:00 p.m. CST and airs on the main Fox Sports North channel.

For more on the Minnesota Golden Gophers, check out The Daily Gopher. You can also catch up on the WCHA and college hockey over at Western College Hockey.

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