MINNEAPOLIS — One night after a grinding victory that remained in doubt until the final minute, the Minnesota Golden Gophers came out firing, building a 6-0 lead after two periods and coasting to a 9-2 win over the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs Saturday night at Mariucci Arena.
Saturday’s game featured more open-ice skating — perhaps the product of wear on the defenses — and many more grade-A chances for the homestanding Gophers, who got goals from nine different players in the rout.
“I think we had a little more jump in our step tonight,” said Minnesota coach Don Lucia. “I think we played a more complete game….It was just a good team effort tonight.”
Indeed it was. Fifteen Gophers scored at least a point in the contest, and Minnesota was four-for-six on the power play, raising its season efficiency to 12-for-24.
As on Friday, the Gophers scored early. This time sophomore centerman Jeff Taffe was the playmaker, carrying into the Duluth zone and releasing a shot from the right side that Bulldog goalie Rob Anderson left in front. From there, Gopher rookie Troy Riddle took three whacks at it, finally stuffing it through the crease at 2:05 for his fourth goal of the season and a 1-0 Minnesota lead.
The Bulldogs nearly answered moments later on a weaving one-man play by Jon Francisco, but Hauser was able to stop his point-blank attempt. Instead, Minnesota increased its lead to two at 8:15 on a Ben Tharp goal, a screen shot into the right side of the net. Nick Anthony and defenseman Nick Angell earned assists on the goal.
The hosts then fended off two power plays to end the period. A holding-the-stick infraction against Tharp put the Bulldogs on their first of the evening, and 1:54 later a roughing minor on Dylan Mills produced the second. Both ended without event, sending the teams to the locker room at 2-0.
Shots on goal after one favored Minnesota 15-6, as the first stanza evidenced more wide-open hockey than in Friday’s series opener.
Five minutes into the second, the ‘Dogs had their best scoring opportunity yet when Hauser just barely turned away junior winger Tom Nelson’s stuff attempt; seconds later, Beau Geisler’s slapper from the point dented twine, but the play had been blown dead for a man in the crease.
Play got a little rougher after that, with Judd Medak going off for slashing Westrum on a drive to the net four-on-four. The Gophers could not convert the resulting power play, but another chance developed immediately as Jordan Leopold and Duluth blueliner Andy Reierson picked up matching minors for roughing after the play.
Seconds into that four-on-four, Angell took advantage of the open ice, maneuvering just inside the UMD blue line and unleashing a rocket slapshot that beat Anderson cleanly to his left at 9:37.
Another Duluth penalty — this one a hold against Medak — produced another Minnesota power play, near the end of which a charge against Ryan Homstol gave the Gophers a delayed-penalty six-on-four. Rookie winger Matt Koalska made UMD pay with his first collegiate goal, a fluttering shot from the point that beat Anderson five-hole.
That goal cleared one power play, leaving the situation five-on-four once again. Koalska again got in on the act, carrying the puck around the back of the net and centering to junior sparkplug John Pohl, whose pretty turnaround shot slipped between Anderson and the right post to make it 5-0 at 15:20. Two minutes later, the hosts scored again off a scrum in front, ending with Leopold’s wrister over a fallen Anderson and just under the crossbar.
Even 30 seconds of five-on-three weren’t enough to get UMD on the board, as Minnesota successfully killed penalties to Taffe and Matt DeMarchi late in the second.
Friday night’s starter, freshman Adam Coole, replaced Anderson in the Bulldog net to start the third. The change seemed to spark UMD, which promptly scored off a Reierson one-timer from the slot. The Gophers responded with another power-play goal, though, as Anderson appeared to knock Aaron Miskovich’s hard-angle shot into the net at 2:46.
Duluth scored again on its sixth power play as Nick Anderson redirected Geisler’s slapper in front to make it 7-2, but the Gophers tacked on their eighth goal on a similar play — senior Matt Leimbek tipping DeMarchi’s point shot at 6:51 — and their ninth on an Erik Wendell power-play marker to close out the scoring.
“There’s some ups and downs, and this is a down,” said UMD head coach Scott Sandelin. “The second period was going all right, and then it was just that stretch were we took some penalties and they got the momentum.
“When you get a team like that on a roll — believe me, I know from experience [what happens],” added Sandelin, for years an assistant with powerful North Dakota.