MINNEAPOLIS — With Minnesota and Minnesota-Duluth heading in opposite directions, nothing happened at Mariucci Arena Friday night to change that.
The Gophers extended their nation-best unbeaten streak to 11 games with a dominating 7-0 win, keeping their momentum as the WCHA playoffs approach and further cementing their credentials for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
On Senior Night, sophomore Evan Kaufmann and freshman Ryan Stoa scored two goals apiece to pace the Minnesota attack. The Gophers notched five goals in the first two periods, outshooting UMD 27-11 in that span before coasting to the victory. Netminder Kellen Briggs made 21 saves for his third shutout of the season.
Prior to the game, the Gophers (24-6-5, 19-5-3 WCHA) honored their five-man senior class of Peter Kennedy, P.J. Atherton, Andy Sertich, Chris Harrington, and captain Gino Guyer, and afterward the Gophers were presented with the MacNaughton Cup in acknowledgement of Minnesota’s WCHA regular-season championship.
More specifically, Guyer was presented with it. The captain carried the Cup to center ice, where Minnesota’s players surrounded it and saluted the crowd — but only Guyer actually touched the trophy.
“Some of the guys are superstitious, and I just went along with it,” Guyer laughed about the ceremony.
Minnesota head coach Don Lucia, for his part, was just happy his team’s performance justified the honor.
“We knew we were getting the trophy tonight, and it was nice to play … in the fashion that you want to receive it,” he said.
The victory was an all-around performance by Minnesota, which had the puck in its possession much more often than not, and consistently outskated the Bulldogs to loose pucks en route to the shutout.
“I’m very happy with where we are now,” said Guyer.
For the Bulldogs (9-22-4, 6-18-3 WCHA), meanwhile, the loss was their fifth straight, and left them with just one win in their last 14 games. Head coach Scott Sandelin complimented the Gophers’ two-way play.
“Everyone talks about how good they are offensively, but I think they’re pretty [darn] good defensively, too,” he said.
Minnesota controlled play from the get-go, racking up the first eight shots on goal in the first period and taking a 1-0 lead at 9:31. Stoa put away a backhand pass through the slot from Ryan Potulny after the defense collapsed on Potulny. The assist extended Potulny’s point-scoring streak to five games.
Early in the second period, a second would-be Gopher goal was waved off. Stoa grabbed a loose puck out of the air at the edge of the crease and literally tossed it into the net, hoping to make contact with his stick during the puck’s flight. His stab at the biscuit missed, and the play was nullified by referee Todd Anderson.
Minnesota got one for real moments later, though. Tom Pohl’s pass found Kaufmann in the slot with nary a defender in sight, giving Kaufmann plenty of time to pick his corner before whipping his shot over Isaac Reichmuth’s shoulder at 3:02.
The rout was on at 5:48. On the power play, Mike Vannelli took a cross-ice pass from Ben Gordon and fired a slapshot from the left point that beat Reichmuth cleanly inside the left post to make it 3-0.
UMD got its chance to get back into the game midway through the period, when Minnesota was whistled for too many men, followed promptly by a Chris Harrington trip to give the Bulldogs a minute and a half of five-on-three. But UMD was unable to take advantage before obstruction-hooking on Mason Raymond essentially ended the power play.
Minnesota made it 4-0 on Gordon’s ninth goal of the year, a turnaround shot from in front that got through the five-hole at 14:46, and then got a fifth goal two minutes later. Kaufmann scored his second of the game with a short-range tip of P.J. Atherton’s slapshot.
“Coaches preach that all the time in practice,” said Kaufmann. “Go to the front of the net. And [assistant] coach [John] Hill had good things to say after both my goals.”
The second assist — his second of the night — went to Kennedy, playing just his seventh game of the year on Senior Night.
“It was nice for Peter,” said Lucia. “He’s had a difficult couple of years.”
In the third period Stoa — off another Potulny feed — and then Danny Irmen capped off the scoring, with Stoa assisting on Irmen’s goal as well to give him a three-point night and the 7-0 final.
The same two teams face off Saturday to conclude the regular season. Game time is 7 p.m. CT at Mariucci.