GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Getting shut out is one thing. Getting blown out is another.
Minnesota not only shut out second-ranked North Dakota for the first time in nearly 11 years, the Gophers did it in grand fashion, handing the Sioux an embarrassing 6-0 loss in front of 11,400 fans at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
“Nobody wants to get shut out, and especially blown out,” said Sioux captain Matt Greene. “We really got blown out tonight. Any stat that you can count in hockey, I think they had it on us tonight.”
In Friday’s game, the Gophers played well, but had nothing go their way in a 4-2 loss. Coming off a similar loss to Alaska-Anchorage the weekend before, Minnesota head coach Don Lucia was concerned about how his team would respond.
“I was a little worried about what kind of energy we would have. We were a little bumped and sore,” he said. “The first shift, we got the type of goal we needed — a deflection goal — and we built from there.”
Just 21 seconds into the game, Minnesota won a faceoff in UND’s zone. Freshman defenseman Alex Goligoski’s blast from the point was tipped in past Sioux goalie Jordan Parise by forward Barry Tallackson to give the Gophers a quick 1-0 lead.
“Right off the bat, one of the things we needed to get better at was faceoffs in our own zone,” said Sioux head coach Dave Hakstol. “We lose a faceoff in our zone in the first 30 seconds of play and it ends up in the back of our net. Unfortunately, that puts you behind the eight-ball early.”
Grand Forks native Ryan Potulny extended Minnesota’s lead to 2-0 at the 16:13 with a power-play goal. Potulny found himself alone in the left circle and simply blasted a slapshot past Parise.
Less than a minute later, Minnesota went ahead 3-0 on a goal by freshman defenseman Nate Hagemo. Fourth-line wingers Garrett Smaagaard and Brent Borgen executed a give-and-go that ended with a pass to Hagemo cruising down the slot and his quick wrister past Parise.
After Parise gave up three goals on 13 shots, Hakstol started senior goalie Jake Brandt in the second period. He managed to hold the Gophers scoreless for 6:45 until Potulny scored his second power-play goal of the game and third goal of the weekend.
At the 7:16 mark, Smaagaard destroyed all hope of a Sioux comeback when he pounded in a centering pass from behind the net by junior forward Tyler Hirsch.
Minnesota’s final goal came at 15:31 of the third period. Potulny stripped UND defenseman Matt Jones of the puck in the Sioux zone and dished it to Danny Irmen, another North Dakota native. His goal made the final score 6-0.
Irmen said a big win on UND’s home ice marks a turning point for the Gophers, who played with three freshman defensemen and three freshman forwards.
“This probably the hardest atmosphere were going to face all year,” he noted. “For our young guys to see this first off and get a victory out of it, it really makes us grow up.”
Lucia agreed that the road win is key to the young team’s development.
“This was an important step for our hockey team to win on the road,” he said. “For a young team to come up in a difficult environment and play as well as we did in back-to-back games, I was really proud of our young guys.
Although the Sioux significantly cut down on their penalties and had more power plays than the Gophers, it was the fourth straight game in which UND has been outshot.
“Early in the year, I thought we were generating scoring opportunities really well,” Hakstol said. “Now, the last four games, we haven’t generated 30 shots on goal. That’s an area that we have to get a lot better at.”
The Sioux are on the road next weekend to take on Hockey East opponents Boston College Oct. 29 and Northeastern Oct. 30. Minnesota plays a two-game series at home Oct. 29-30 with WCHA opponent Minnesota State.