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College Hockey:
Ambroz, Matson, Budish each have two points as Minnesota outlasts Minnesota State

— Zach Lehrke scored twice on the power play for Minnesota State and goaltender Austin Lee turned aside 37 Minnesota shots, but it wasn’t enough as the Gophers held off the Mavericks’ comeback bid to complete a sweep with a 3-2 win in front of 9,710 on a snowy Saturday night at Mariucci Arena.

JP Lafontaine assisted on both Lehrke goals giving him three points (1-2-3) in the series.

The Gophers (13-4-1, 10-2-0 WCHA) received two-point efforts from Seth Ambroz (goal, assist), Taylor Matson (goal, assist), and Zach Budish (two assists) on Saturday to defeat their in-state rival to the south.

Goalie Kent Patterson earned the win with 26 saves in a penalty-filled contest which included three unsportsmanlike conduct calls in the game’s first six minutes.

The teams combined for 44 minutes in penalties including 22 in the first period alone. Minnesota State (3-12-1, 2-9-1 WCHA) was 2-for-9 with the man advantage, while Minnesota’s power play was 1-for-5.

“I thought it was obviously important for us to get off to a great start, which we did,” said Minnesota coach Don Lucia. “We hit some pipes, so we couldn’t build on that lead and then we had a couple whiffs.

“We got into penalty problems and allowed them to get back in the game, but I like the way we closed out the third.”

For the second straight night, No. 5 Minnesota jumped out to an early lead courtesy of Ambroz’s third goal of the season at 2:37 of the first period. Camped out near the left edge of the crease, Ambroz batted his own rebound over Lee’s right pad after a feed from Budish.

“I like those little greasy goals,” said Ambroz. “Being in front of the net is a place you’ve got to pay the price to get dirty goals.”

“He scored the type of goal he needs to score, right around the net,” Lucia said of Ambroz. “We haven’t had enough of those lately.”

The Mavericks nearly potted the equalizer less than two minutes later when an Adam Mueller pass sprung Justin Jokinen in alone on Patterson after the senior forward slipped between and behind Minnesota’s defense, but Patterson’s quick glove preserved the Minnesota lead.

The breakaway was one of at least five thwarted by Patterson on the weekend, including Matt Leitner’s effort seven minutes into the second period that Patterson turned away with his blocker.

“Credit their guy in net,” said Minnesota State coach Troy Jutting. “You change momentum when you score on things like that and you build momentum if you stop plays like that.

Nearing the halfway mark of the opening period, Matson scored his fifth of the year and second of the series with an ‘assist’ from Lee, of all people. Lee’s deflection of a Nate Condon pass intended for Ambroz went right to Matson who turned and beat Lee with a wrist shot from the left circle.

In all fairness to Lee, however, MSU’s senior goaltender was called upon to make several big stops on the night, including back-to-back saves on Jake Hansen and Christian Isackson in the first, as well as gobbling up a Condon one-timer early in the second.

But there’s no disputing Lee’s most spectacular effort of the night coming with just under four minutes to go in the second.

Minnesota’s Kyle Rau let go of a low shot from between the circles that bounced up off the right post and hit high off the right post. With the puck seemingly suspended in midair, Lee swung his left arm behind him batting the puck out of harm’s way with his catching glove.

“I saw it go off the post and I just threw my hand back there and got the puck,” said Lee. “I was just trying to keep [the deficit] at three goals after that first period, just trying to keep it a game, and they guys responded.”

The Gophers extended their lead to three before the first intermission when defenseman Mark Alt found Rau open just below the left hash mark where the freshman re-directed Alt’s cross-ice pass past Lee for his 11th of the season at 18:41.

Lehrke scored early in the each of the final two periods, the second on 5-on-3 advantage with a pretty one-timer set up by Lafontaine four minutes into the third. The shot was one of just four in the third period for the Mavericks as their rally fell just short of the mark.

“We obviously dug ourselves a little bit too big of a hole there,” said Jutting.

“They kind of climbed their way back into the game, but the bottom line is we got two more wins at home and they’re important wins for us,” said Lucia.

After two tight losses, the Mavericks must certainly feel they left points on the table this weekend, but encouragingly, they gave themselves a chance to win on consecutive nights against a ranked opponent on the road.

“Yesterday, we came out kind of flat and we knew we got away with one,” said Ambroz of Minnesota’s 4-2 win on Friday. “They have a good team over there and they’re a lot better than what their record shows.

“We knew they were going to come out physical and we had to match their intensity, if not be better.”

“Minnesota’s a very good, so we’ll look back at this weekend and we’ll hopefully see it as a turning point in our season,” said Lee.

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  • nogofer

    gofers edge (read squeak by) the last place team on gofer home (read barn) ice…  Impressive…

    • Anonymous

      A win is a win, and the Mavs always play them hard. They’ve given lots of teams a hard time over the past few years. Hopefully at some point they manage to break through.

      • guest

        And duluth had real tough time with them last week. Right…

    • B Ho

      Squeak by was the first game…sorry, they ruled the game! Apparently Gopher forwards make goaltenders come alive! Plenty of shots on net was awesome, and MSU’s goalie was pretty awesome! Schmidt has a freaking cannon thats around the net. All in all, Mankato never really had a chance.

    • Phoenixfyre1313

      and how did you do against St. Cloud who was in last place when they visited you?  Split.   Impressive.

  • Heyharrison22

    yeah worst referees ever they suck!!!

    • B Ho

      I really can’t believe any team would want to fight with Bjugstad. He is freaking huge!!!! You’ve got 5 foot and a half forwards trying to push around a giant! Amazes me how much he looks like Blake Wheeler!

    • MNHockeypuck

      No doubt.  Terrible calls in both games this weekend. I was at the Friday game and the crowd was ready to lynch the guys in stripes.

  • NateBauer

    Gophers are a decent team. Kent Patterson has to be in the top three for the Hobey at this point along with Jack Connolly (Minnesota-Duluth), Mark Zengerle (Wisconsin) and Austin Smith (Colgate). Without Patterson, I’m not sure Minnesota is even ranked he’s stolen so many games for them this year. Even with him I just think that Minnesota is overrated. Yeah they have a good record but you look at some of the teams they have played and it takes away from it a lot. C’mon… Sacred Heart to start the season could you have an easier start. They sneak out of Duluth with a couple wins, and I do mean sneak. Then they go and split with Vermont, a team they should’ve easily handled. They have also lost to St. Cloud, Wisconsin and Michigan State (none of which were ranked at the time they played). I think that this Minnesota team is good, but not great. They haven’t shown that they can beat the teams they need to beat. Even with the fact that they swept Mankato they looked less than average in the process. They were at HOME against the worst team in the WCHA and they struggled and limped to a pair of victories. I know I sound like a Gopher hater but I just get a little annoyed when any team is overrated. If it was up to me, the Gophers would be about 10 or 11 in the rankings. They have not played a lot of good teams and they have shown that they have an inability to get W’s against teams they should absolutely beat up on. Just some food for thought. 

    • B Ho

      Food for thought = Nick Bjugstad! A phenomenal goal scorer!! Second is the fact any team knows they’re playing the Gophers. They’re the “Yankees” in college hockey…it doesn’t matter who they’re opponent is, it will be a difficult series. I will never discount any team in D-1 hockey. There is a reason they’re in this division. I just think the WCHA is waaaay beyond any other conference (hence the Frozen Four with all WCHA). Minnesota finally has a team that’s worth looking at. Trust me, I was a Zamboni driver for 2 years at the U. I’m not discounting ANY team, but Minnesota looks good!

      • guest

        They are more like the St. Louis Cardinals of college hockey. Still down the list on number of championships.

    • Phoenixfyre1313

      Just some food for thought.  They are 13-4-1.  Apparently, people who are not Gopher fans seem to feel that the Gophers need to be undefeated to command any respect.  We all know that won’t happen and that when you are one of the top teams people are always bringing their best game when they play you.  This team has alot of talent on offense and in goal, but a very young defense and that was the reason for the losses against Vermont and St. Cloud.  Who is it that you would rate higher and let’s take a look at who they played.  Look at Minnesota State, who the Gophers had a hard time with, they have played everyone tough all year.  Lost to Denver 4-2, in Denver, split with Michigan Tech in Houghton.  They are at the bottom of the league, but have only been blown out once all season.  Toss in the fact that the Saturday night game was the worst case of officiating I have seen in a very long time.  You what I am getting tired of people downplaying the victories over UMD, in their barn.  The Gophers totally dominated them on Friday night in the series and then got spectacular goaltending to win on Sunday.  Squeaked out a win.  Not real sure if you pay attention, but it is hard enough to even win on the road in the WCHA, let alone win convincingly.  It is a joke.  If the Gophers win, they didn’t win by a big enough score and when they lose they should have won.  They are not playing their best hockey right now and they are still winning, that is the mark of a very good team.  One that finds a way to win, even when they are not playing their best or things are going against them.

    • guest

      Wait, Patterson must be the one who scores those 4 goals a game then…or wait, is he the one with a 85% PK? or the one with 25% power play? Yeah…as much as people want to believe that the gophers aren’t good this year I hate to break it to you they are. It amazes me what people are willing to do to try and convince themselves the gophers aren’t good. I mean, say they haven’t beaten anybody good and then discredit their sweep in Duluth? Are you forgetting they also swept N. Dakota? Everyone acts like all of a sudden it’s easy to win in the Kohl Center so that loss to Wisconsin is huge? I’m sorry, but if you’ve been around the WCHA for as long as I have you would know that wins do not come easy against any team. 

      • NateBauer

        Yeah hows N. Dak doing this year? They even ranked? Nope. Neither was Wisconsin when they got dominated by them, neither was St. Cloud or VERMONT or Mich. State. 

        • nogofer

          True, wins do not come easy on the road in the WCHA, yet UND took 4 points from UAA in Alaska.  Wait till Monday, your nightmare starts soon…

    • MNHockeypuck

      The overrated team is Merrimack.

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