MINNEAPOLIS — Nick Bjugstad scored two short-handed goals in the third period Friday to propel No. 20 Minnesota to a 5-2 win over Michigan Tech at Mariucci Arena.
Down by two entering the third period, Michigan Tech needed to get the next goal to get back into the game. The Huskies had jump, outshooting the Gophers 7-1 and then got a power play.
But Bjugstad outhustled a Huskies defenseman to the puck and broke in on goaltender Kevin Genoe alone, putting the game away for the Gophers.
“I had two breakaways. I usually do not get many, SO I am pretty fortunate,” Bjugstad said.
Michigan Tech closed the gap to two goals at 15:54 on a power-play goal by Milos Gordic, who buried his own rebound.
Bjugstad finished the scoring with 1 second left with a short-handed, empty-net goal.
“You can just see him continue to grow as a player,” Minnesota coach Don Lucia said. “Now he is certainly giving us a lot more offense than what he did the first half of the season. It’s coming at a great time.”
“It’s just our whole team’s mentality,” Bjugstad added. “I think we are a lot more confident then we were at the beginning of the year.”
After a scoreless first period, the Huskies started the second period strong with several quality scoring chances, including a shot at 20 seconds from Jacob Johnstone that climbed up the uniform of Gophers goaltender Kent Patterson.
“I thought we came out in the second and got a real good start, got a couple good scoring chances,” Huskies coach Jamie Russell said.
Michigan Tech’s Daniel Holmberg got the first goal of the game at 6:30 on a perfect shot into the upper corner glove side while on a two-on-one rush. It capped a stretch in which the Huskies outshot Minnesota 8-3.
Ironically, the goal seemed to give life to the Gophers. Headed into the game Minnesota was 1-9-1 when the opponent scored first.
Taylor Matson tied it the game just 23 seconds later. Mattson stopped a pass from Patrick White 10 feet inside the zone and unleashed a bomb that beat Genoe.
“I thought the key play of the game was Taylor answering when they scored the first goal on the next shift,” Lucia said.
Said Russell: “I think we’ve done that a number of times this year. With a young team you have to understand controlling momentum. When you have it you want to keep it. When you’re the opposition you have to make smart decisions with the puck and get the momentum back.”
Minnesota made it 2-1 at 10:31 when Nick Larson picked up a loose puck on the weak side and fired a long angle shot over the sprawling Genoe that banked off the far pipe.
Jacob Cepis added a third goal at 12:58 on a delayed penalty. Cepis tapped in a rebound on a shot by Justin Holl while on a three-on-two rush.
“I think that is four games in a row now where he [Cepis] scored a goal,” Lucia said. “He is a goal scorer. We count on him night in and night out to score points.”
The four-goal second period was in stark contrast of the scoreless first period.
The Gophers dominated the first 15 minutes, outshooting the Huskies 11-3. The Huskies gained momentum late including two quality shots with two minutes left in the period by Patrick McCadden and Alex MacLeod.
Shots inside the circles favored Minnesota 7-3.
Minnesota thought it had a goal just 2:00 into the game, but Mike Hoeffel was ruled in the crease.