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Gophers Hockey: Minnesota Routs Sacred Heart 9-0 In Friday Night Opener

If only every game could end like this.

In a game which bordered on domination at times, the University of Minnesota beat Sacred Heart 9-0 at Mariucci Arena. The Gophers took no time to get on the board with Kyle Rau scoring just 56 seconds into the game to put Minnesota up 1-0. Rau, a true freshman, was all over the ice early in the game and showed he belonged on the top line as Minnesota head coach Don Lucia remarked after the game that “it was no surprise [Rau] was the first goal scorer.”

Penalties doomed Minnesota throughout the rest of the first period as the Gophers took three in a ten minute stretch. While Sacred Heart had opportunities, Minnesota goaltender Kent Patterson stood tall as the period ended with the Gophers ahead 1-0.

Minnesota’s sloppiness with the puck and taking bad penalties seemed to fix itself as the second period wore on. Although Jake Hansen was able to score 5:26 in the second off of a slapshot from the right circle, the Gophers really took over halfway through the period. Sophomore Nick Bjugstad, sophomore Erik Haula and freshman Sam Warning all scored goals within a four minute stretch that took the wind out of the Pioneers’ sails. Haula’s goal was especially great as the team was able to take advantage of a 4 on 1 opportunity and give Minnesota a 4-0 lead after two periods.

Minnesota dominated the third period as Nick Bjugstad scored his second goal 48 seconds into the period. Tom Serratore made it 7-0 on a tip-in from defenseman Blake Thompson while the final two goals were scored by freshman forward Seth Ambroz. Ambroz, who played well all night, was finally rewarded by scoring two goals which traveled a combined ten feet. Freshman Travis Boyd almost gave Minnesota in the closing seconds their first double digit game in seven years but missed an open net; forcing the Gophers to settle with a 9-0 win.

Although the scoreboard shows a 9-0 win, Minnesota still has work to do on the ice. The Gophers went 1-6 on the power play and at times relied on Patterson to bail out sloppy plays. Their penalty kill left something to be desired which is a little alarming after finishing last season 11th in the penalty kill. It was clear that Sacred Heart was not on the same level as Minnesota but the Gophers face the defending national champions Minnesota Duluth next weekend. While the team was able to play better in the neutral zone and get the Pioneers to turn pucks over, that won’t work against the Bulldogs.

Then again, to see eight even-strength goals, a 2:1 shot advantage, strong play from the six freshmen and all four lines scoring is nothing to be ashamed. I was impressed with the effort of the fourth line (Tom Serratore, Travis Boyd and Nico Sacchetti) were making a big difference on both ends of the ice being pests for the Sacred Heart players; even when the game was out of hand. It’s more than anyone expected and the type of play which has been missing from recent Gophers teams.

The Gophers play Sacred Heart again tomorrow night while Coach Lucia promises to play some of the healthy scratches. The game will not be televised due to the Wild’s season opener but will be broadcast on the radio at ESPN 1500.

Stats of the night:
-Minnesota outshot Sacred Heart 47-20; including 19-5 in the second period.
-All four lines scored at least one goal.
-Minnesota won 67% of faceoffs with Taylor Matson winning 14 of 17 and Travis Boyd winning 7 of 10.
-Seven different Minnesota players scored
-Kent Patterson, a junior, finally had his first shutout as a Golden Gopher.

Photographs by Micah Taylor, clairity, and Fibonacci Blue used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.