MINNEAPOLIS — After two periods, it looked like another close finish could be in store. Saturday, though, fifth-ranked Minnesota would have none of it.
With the Gophers leading Bemidji State just 2-1 at the second intermission, Troy Riddle scored his second goal of the game, on a five-on-three power play 44 seconds into the third period, to give Minnesota the breathing room it never earned in Friday’s nailbiter.
The Gophers tacked on two late goals for a 5-1 win and series sweep at Mariucci Arena.
On Riddle’s insurance goal, defenseman Keith Ballard created the opportunity, working his way between the circles and firing a slapshot that Riddle tipped home for his 16th goal of the season.
“He hit it so hard, it almost knocked the stick out of my hands,” said Riddle, whose first goal of the game, early in the second period, turned out to be the winner.
Minnesota (18-9-3), which bogged down against an effective Beaver defense Friday, gained momentum as the game went along, outshooting Bemidji State (15-9-2) by a margin of 42-17, including a 29-11 edge in the final two periods.
“Their speed and intensity were too much for us,” said BSU head coach Tom Serratore. “We hung in there with some good goaltending. That was their ‘A’ game tonight.”
“They forced us to play our ‘A’ game,” Gopher head coach Don Lucia countered, “and that’s a compliment to them.”
Indeed, for much of the game Bemidji State goaltender Layne Sedevie was the story. The freshman from Bismarck, N.D., stopped 37 shots, including 16 in the second period to keep the Beavers in it.
Several of his saves were spectacular, and a couple nearly defied description, including one in the second period against Jerrid Reinholz, on a rising shot from between the circles that Sedevie somehow kicked away by swinging his left leg high while rolling over on the ice.
“He’s a heck of a good goaltender,” said Serratore in what may have been an understatement.
Minnesota took an early lead on Reinholz’ second goal of the season, just 2:51 into the first period. A Barry Tallackson slapper from the right side was kicked out by Sedevie, but Brett MacKinnon sent the rebound across the crease behind the netminder, and Reinholz tapped it in.
After a series of big-time saves by Sedevie including an impossible glove stop on Matt Koalska after sliding across the crease — the Gophers broke through for a 2-0 lead at 7:17 of the second period. Even then, it wasn’t easy.
On the power play, Minnesota held the offensive zone for a full minute before Riddle took a pass from Danny Irmen and fired a shot from the left circle that banked off Beaver defenseman John Haider, then Sedevie’s right pad, then the near post before going in.
Bemidji State got back within one at 14:39 on a power-play goal of its own. Brendan Cook, the Beavers’ most dangerous weapon all weekend, tipped home a backdoor pass from rookie standout Luke Erickson to make it 2-1.
But Minnesota pulled away in the third, thanks to Riddle’s second goal and scores from MacKinnon at 12:35, and Andy Sertich five minutes later.
MacKinnon’s goal was his first of the season, and the second of the game for the Gophers’ newly-constituted fourth line of MacKinnon, Reinholz and Tallackson. Minnesota, still missing Thomas Vanek and defenseman Peter Kennedy — both expected back next week — in addition to captain Grant Potulny, juggled its lines from Friday’s edition.
Lucia was pleased to get contributions from other than the usual suspects.
“I thought all the lines played well tonight,” he said. “It was a good game it was an entertaining game.”
“Tonight we just hung on that was the difference,” said Serratore. “Last night, we played with them.”
A minor fracas erupted late when Koalska plowed into Sedevie after getting hooked on a rush, but Sedevie played the last two minutes of the game after receiving attention from the BSU trainer on the ice.
At the other end of the rink, Kellen Briggs (16 saves) was not tested often, but left no reason to criticize his performance.
“The bottom line is, the goals [Briggs] is giving up are good goals,” Lucia said of his freshman netminder. “He’s making the saves he should, and a few that he shouldn’t.”
Next weekend, Minnesota returns to WCHA play with a series at Minnesota-Duluth. CHA-leading Bemidji State continues its tour of intrastate nonconference opponents with a pair of games at St. Cloud State.