MINNEAPOLIS — After dominating the play for most of the second period, which includes outshooting Minnesota 10-2 with less than five minutes to play, the Sioux imploded. A six-minute stretch where Minnesota tallied 4 goals on 12 shots.
Throughout most of the game, North Dakota could not buy a bounce against Alex Kangas, but the Gophers found plenty of puck luck.
“It was Alex’s best game of the season,” commented Don Lucia on his goalie’s performance.
“Tonight, we had a little [luck],” added Lucia.
At 14:51 of the second, Zach Budish scored an unassisted goal off a faceoff. No one won the draw, and the puck banged around until Budish saw it and got some wood on it at the same time as a North Dakota a player partially blocked it. The puck went eight feet in the air. A perfect nine-iron shot right into the back of the net over bewildered goalie Brad Eidsness.
It was only 2-0 and the Sioux were playing well. Both Minnesota’s goals at that point were fortunate bounces, but the next bounce broke the Sioux’s back.
At 18:06, Tony Lucia blocked a shot and the puck headed straight out of the zone. Lucia picked the puck up at the Gophers’ blue line and skated in on a breakaway, beating Eidsness stick side over the blocker. He was mobbed on the bench.
“Tony made a great play with the blocked shot,” remarked Don Lucia.
The Gophers then set a new school record, scoring just seven seconds later on a goal by Jacob Cepis on a feed from Jordan Schroeder.
The collapse continued, as the Sioux took two minor penalties, giving Minnesota a two-man advantage that spanned the second intermission.
The Gophers made it 5-0 when Mike Hoeffel turned and fired a wrist shot on net from 50 feet that hit Eidsness’s pad and bounced in.
“Looking at the shots in the first part of the second, we were all over them; the last five minutes of the second we could not get out of it,” said Darcy Zajac.
Zajac scored the only North Dakota goal at 8:33 of the third.
The Sioux outshot Minnesota 14-to-two in the third period.
The win by Minnesota at Mariucci ended a six-game winless streak (0-4-2) versus the Sioux.
“Obviously they have had our number; it’s definitely good to get a win,” said Kangas.
The Gophers opened the scoring at 18:11 of the first with a goal by Josh Birkholz off a three-on-two rush. Ryan Flynn brought the puck into the zone and left a drop pass for Nico Sacchetti, who fired a shot from 40 feet out hitting the cross bar. Birkholz picked the puck out of mid-air and buried it into the empty net.
Jacob Cepis went off late in the second for Minnesota and did not return for the third period. The injury was minor, and the coaches expect him back next week.
Next week, North Dakota heads to Cornell and Minnesota plays a home-and-home series with St. Cloud.