Although it doesn't count in the standings or stat sheet, Christian Isackson and the Gophers got off on the right foot.
Minnesota kicked off the 2012-2013 season with a 7-0 exhibition win over the Lethbridge Pronghorns. Isackson (Buffalo Sabres) led the Gophers with a natural hat trick while goalies Michael Shibrowski and Adam Wilcox (Tampa Bay Lightning) combined for a 16 shot shutout.
After Lethbridge forward Mark Hall received a game misconduct for checking Zach Budish (Nashville Predators) from behind, Isackson went to work. The sophomore scored twice during the power play, both times being set up by Travis Boyd (Washington Capitals) and gave Minnesota a lead they would never relinquish. He came close to getting the third goal twice during the rest of the first period but it wasn't until Nick Bjugstad (Florida Panthers) set him up 1:08 into the second that Isackson could celebrate his first collegiate hat trick.
In fact, tonight was the first time Isackson had scored a point as a Gopher. He spent the majority of his freshman season fighting for ice time and nursing a left hand injury before getting a chance Saturday to play on the top line with Bjugstad and Kyle Rau (Panthers).
25 seconds after Isackson made it 3-0, Sam Warning scored to make it 4-0 and bring the 7,823 at Mariucci Arena to their feet. Not to be outdone, freshman Mike Reilly (Columbus Blue Jackets) finished a magnificent shift by setting up defensive partner Mark Alt (Carolina Hurricanes) for a slap shot from the point that found its way past Pronghorns goalie Dylan Tait.
Ben Marshall (Detroit Red Wings) and Seth Ambroz (Blue Jackets) added goals in the third period to give the Gophers a 7-0 win. It was a satisfying end to a game that saw 31 minutes in penalties handed out between the two teams during the third period.
Minnesota begins the regular season next Friday and Saturday at home against Michigan State. Friday's game begins at 6 p.m. CT while Saturday's is at 8 p.m. Fox Sports North broadcasts both games.
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