MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — Minnesota’s balance on offense was the most thoroughly-documented strength going into the season.
Seventeen different Gophers recorded at least one point as the team scored 12 goals over the weekend and No. 2 Minnesota swept No. 16 Michigan State with a 7-1 win Saturday at Mariucci Arena.
“I like the balance,” said Gophers coach Don Lucia. “We took Zach Budish off that top line to get three lines that we can score on a nightly basis. We feel comfortable in certain parts of our lineup that’s going to create a lot of competition.”
The Gophers (2-0-0) travel to Michigan Tech next weekend for their WCHA opener in Houghton, Mich. Michigan State looks for its first win against Niagara Friday and Saturday at home.
Minnesota won 5-1 Friday, with all nine members of the top three lines and two defensemen figuring in the scoresheet.
On Saturday, six more players – defensemen Nate Schmidt, Brady Skjei, Justin Holl and Mark Alt and fourth-liners Tom Serratore and Ryan Reilly – recorded their first points of the season.
Isaackson played in 11 games last season, but didn’t record anything more than a minor penalty and now he’s playing with Minnesota’s top line at right wing, where Budish played last season.
Like Friday night, the Gophers got on the scoreboard early. All it took was 1:25 for Erik Haula to stuff the puck under MSU goaltender Will Yanakeff’s pads. Nick Bjugstad scored his second goal of the season 3:54 later on a nice tic-tac-toe play from Kyle Rau and Isaackson.
“I saw (Bjugstad) coming out of the corner and he yelled for it,” Rau said. “I almost handcuffed him on the pass but he made a good play and put it in.”
Serratore added another goal two minutes later and Ben Marshall made it 4-0 going into the first intermission on a soft shot from the blue line that trickled through Yanakeff’s pads.
Yanakeff finished with 18 saves before he was pulled during the second intermission. Jake Hildebrand had nine in relief.
The Gophers outscored the Spartans 7-0 in the first period this weekend, not the type of starts MSU coach Tom Anastos wanted to see.
“You always want to get off to a better start than that,” Anastos said. “They’re a terrific team. We watched them play last year and they’re way better (this season).”
Any deficit against the Gophers is going to be tough to overcome this season if the Minnesota defense continues to shut down opponents like it did the Spartans.
Minnesota’s other strength, defense, didn’t give opposing offenses much of a chance, whether Adam Wilcox or Michael Shibrowski was in net.
“We had the puck a lot this weekend,” Lucia said. “Our ‘D’ can skate well and they can get back to pucks and make plays, so it’s hard for other teams to forecheck. I thought we were clean coming out of the zone all weekend.”
Minnesota’s ‘D’ made it easy for Wilcox, who only had to make 10 saves, including a few that would make the highlight reels.
He snagged his first career save with the glove early in the first, made a desperation pad save later in the period, and sprawled out to stop the puck with the stick late in the second period.
The 10th shot Wilcox faced, by Brent Darnell 2:05 into the third period, was his first collegiate goal allowed.
“(Wilcox) looked sharp,” Lucia said. “He’s not afraid to go out and get the puck. He can be an asset.”