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College Hockey:
Rau scores two as Minnesota edges Nebraska-Omaha

— No. 6 Minnesota lost one-third of its top line Saturday due to injury. When the time came for someone else to step up though, it was a freshman that led the way.

Indeed, Gophers newcomer Kyle Rau’s impressive first season with the team continued at speed Saturday, with Rau scoring two goals in a 3-2 win over Nebraska-Omaha in front of 11,772 at CenturyLink Center.

Gophers star center Nick Bjugstad left the game with an undisclosed injury in the game’s second period, but Rau stepped up, slotting home his 15th and 16th goals of the season.

UNO (14-14-6, 11-10-5 WCHA) held court early in Saturday’s game, but a quick equalizer from Gophers defenseman Mark Alt and a pair of goals from Rau turned the game around in the visitors’ favor.

With the sweep, including Friday’s 3-2 overtime win over the Mavericks, Minnesota (23-11-1, 19-7-0) retained its two-point lead at the top of the WCHA standings over second-place Minnesota Duluth.

“Both of this weekend’s wins are satisfying,” Gophers coach Don Lucia told reporters after Saturday’s game. “When you get to this point of the year, and with what we’re fighting for, (these games) were both hard-fought, and I’m happy for our players.”

As for UNO, with its chances of clinching home ice for the first round of the WCHA playoffs hanging in the balance, the Mavericks needed to start Saturday’s game well, and they did.

Things were looking good for the hosts in the game’s opening throes, and UNO made its early superiority count. Mavericks forward Brent Gwidt did the honors, beating Gophers goaltender Kent Patterson low from in close 6:05 into the game.

Not long after Gwidt’s opener, though, Minnesota took over.

Just 41 seconds after UNO took its lead, the Gophers equalized. Alt was credited with the goal, smartly backhanding a shot past UNO goalie Ryan Massa from the left circle, beating the freshman goaltender to his near-side post.

Minnesota then took a lead of its own at 9:20 of the first period, with Rau beating Massa, whose night came then came to a quick end.

Massa was pulled after only making two saves in just over nine minutes, with UNO coach Dean Blais opting to send in veteran backup netminder John Faulkner.

Minnesota’s unquestionable quality continued to shine through during Saturday’s second period, and the Gophers doubled their lead near the game’s halfway point.

Rau’s second goal of the night, this time with the freshman beating Faulkner low from close range, made the score 3-1 at 9:24 of the period. It was Rau’s second unanswered goal for the visitors, with both of his strikes coming while Minnesota was on the power play.

UNO’s penalty-killing units have been the Mavericks’ pride and joy this season, coming into Saturday’s game at the top of that statistical category in the WCHA. The Gophers — and especially Rau — had little trouble in finding the net while having the numerical advantage.

“We got a little opportunistic, so that was good,” Lucia said about his team’s power play units. “Our guys executed well, and (the power-play goals) are what we had to have, so I give our guys a lot of credit.

“He’s obviously a very talented player, and he’s got a bright future,” Lucia went on to say about Rau. “Kyle Rau has a history of scoring big-time goals.”

UNO was later gifted a way back into the game during Saturday’s third period, with a Gophers defensive error leading to a short-handed breakaway goal for Mavericks forward Matt White.

Patterson shut the door after that, though. The senior keeper ended the night with 27 saves.

For his team’s part, Blais thought that, despite the setback, in terms of the game’s result, his team put in a solid performance against one of the best teams in the country.

“It was a great hockey game,” Blais said. “Obviously when you’re down 3-1 and you’re pressing, I don’t think we were relaxed at all. It was another game where we worked hard, but Minnesota’s a good hockey team and they deserved the win, but I thought we played well.”

That they did, but UNO couldn’t stop Minnesota from continuing its pursuit of the WCHA regular season title.

There’s still one week left before the Gophers get their chance to win the MacNaughton Cup. However, with Minnesota’s senior class having never won that trophy, a WCHA Final Five game or an NCAA tournament game, Rau said that it’s up to the team to send its seniors out on a high.

“Our leaders are huge, and we just want to (win) for them and send them out on a good note. They’ve done a lot for Gophers hockey, and they deserve to have something to show for it.”

If Minnesota has its way, it will be able to hoist the seniors’ first bit of major college hockey silverware at home next weekend against Wisconsin. UNO is also at home in the final week of the regular season, with the Mavericks welcoming No. 9 Denver to CenturyLink Center for a two-game set.

The following is a self-policing forum for discussing views on this story. Comments that are derogatory, make personal attacks, are abusive, or contain profanity or racism will be removed at our discretion. USCHO.com is not responsible for comments posted by users. Please report any inappropriate or offensive comments by clicking the “Flag” link next to that comment in order to alert the moderator.

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  • Sioux_Suk

    Minnesota has won 7 of it’s last 9.  UMD is 5-3-1 druing the same stretch. Who’s hot?  

    • xTEDxTHExREDx

      I swear, the only thing Gopher fans are good at is crying about the most
      asinine things. I cannot wait until UMD officially ends your season. See you in
      Tampa (if you guys can even make it there), We’ll be the ones wearing the home
      whites.

      • sioux_suck

         Another siouxage fan being just plain asanine.  I know you guys struggle with obvious facts, but tough.  Deal with it home boy.  BTW, your team won’t even make the NCAA’s this year.  You’ll be lucky to get to the final five.  If you want I’ll buy your tickets to Tampa. You won’t need them. 

        • xTEDxTHExREDx

          First of all, get your own word. Secondly, MY TEAM (aka the team that will end your season) is tUMD Bulldogs and the last time I checked we were sitting quite comfortably atop the PairWise Rankings. So pack your away uni’s if you manage to make it to Tampa. If you want to win a national championship you’re going to have to go through us. The tears of the Gopher faithful are going to taste so good.

          p.s.
          Connolly for Hobey.

          • Guest

            The little brother Bulldogs win one title and think their the class of Minnesota now. Come back to reality when UMD wins 5+ titles

          • Fan Man

             Come talk when you win 7+ titles

          • Jason

            Come talk when the Souix catch up on their overall record with the Gophers.

          • Fan Man

             Only have one more loss than your team!

          • Guest

            Gopher’s overall record vs. the Whioux: 143-129-14. Gopher’s record vs. the Whioux this year: 3-1.

          • Nwo4life58203

             and how many has hackstol won

          • Mr. Hockey

            You must be talking about Denver

          • Phoenixfyre1313

            blah, blah, blah……..

        • Fan Man

           I’m a Sioux Fan!  Can I send you address so you can send me those tickets you wont be needing?

      • Jason

        Lol it’s a valid point to bring up if USCHO is claiming the Bulldogs are hot and not the Gophers.

      • Phoenixfyre1313

        You have got to be one of the biggest smack talkers to post around here.  But you say a bunch of crap and then don’t come back when people call you on your garbage and that is all that is, is garbage.   Go back to the picks for this week and look at the responses to your garbage there and respond.  Otherwise all you are is a hothead with a big mouth.

      • Nwo4life58203

         is that the same home jerseys u where wearing when we swept u at home gophers 2 UMD 0

  • nogofer

    I have two favorite teams; The Fighting Sioux and whomever is playing the gofers…  And I live in the Cities!

    • Phoenixfyre1313

      wow, splitting your loyalty, very unSioux-like

    • Fan Man

       Funny, I too live in the Cities and have the same Ideals…  What is really funny is have you noticed that they only write game recaps or put pics of the Gophers on USCHO when they win?  They hardly ever recap the game or mention it when they lose which is funny because we dont have a homer writer and I think this site might want to think about getting one because it is getting kinda ridiculous as to how biased they are towards the goof~balls

    • Guest

      It’s hilarious how obsessed Sue fans are with the gophers. They even take the time to trash talk on an article that has nothing to do with their sorry team.

      • WCHA HOCKEY

        Right, every single week!!

  • Sivgopher

    Everyday I like to read this page for everbodys comments its better than tv

  • The Realist

    The difference between the Gophers and the other WCHA teams, other than their records this year, is that every team every week gets up to play the Gophers, while UMD and the Sioux (or whatever we’re now supposed to call them) are just another team on the schedule.

    • Fan Man

       Realist get real!  You guys are not that good this year and I (will) see your demise coming very soon!  Probably against that whatever we’re supposed to call team…

  • Sioux_Suk

    One more thing.  The guy who said he reads the post out here for the humor.  Yeah, I agree.  The delusion of some of the posters here is about as humorous as it gets.  Note:  See Team Without a Nickname from grand forks, nowhere dakota.  That team is going, going, gone!! 

    • Fan Man

       You are a funny one LOL

  • WCHA HOCKEY

    Funny how all these hardcore Sioux fans end back up in the great state of Minnesota, none the less the Twin Cities, the heart of Gopher country. Also its true, Wisconsin, UMD, UND, SCSU, MSU all rival the Gophers more than any other team.

    • Guest

      Of course they do. Lets be honest it’s North Dakota. You can’t get any worse than that!

  • Goldy

    I love hockey and I love my favorite team, but when I read what some people write and how they defend their club like it is their family and they have been insulted and threatened I always feel a bit…(crappy). some of this stuff really solidifies the reasons a to why most people think gopher fans are…(fill in the blank)

    • beefheart

      Well said, Goldy. I myself am looking forward to the Final Five for the hockey games played, not so much the tears shed by my enemies….actually, I have no hockey enemies, I am a Gopher fan and rooted for UMD last NCAA, Bemidji when they were there, Denver when they were there, and dare I say it, the Souix and the Badgers when they were there and when no WCHA team is there, I pick another ( never Michigan though and I am not sure why….. ) The point is, it is a game, and one that I happen to think is pretty darn fun to watch and be a part of. Go Gophers!!!!! and lest one of the negative nellies want to attack me, go your team too!!!