MINNEAPOLIS — Top-ranked Minnesota, on the strength of Kyle Rau’s first collegiate hat trick, routed Alaska-Anchorage 7-1 Saturday night for its first WCHA sweep of the season.
Rau completed his hat trick by picking up a loose puck off the right side wall and skating around two defenders creating his own shooting lane and beating Rob Gunderson by making him move side to side.
“It was a fun game for us,” Rau said. “We were trying to get the goalie moving side to side. That’s what happened with two of my goals here.”
The first period was a complete contrast to Friday night’s game as the Gophers controlled play throughout the stanza. The Seawolves could muster only two shots, where the Gophers fired 12 on net and scoring twice.
“A better start for us tonight,” Minnesota coach Don Lucia said. “They played so hard last night and maybe losing a heart-breaker like that took a little bit out of them. Our guys came out and played so much better and dominated the first period.”
“They were definitely the better team tonight,” admitted UAA coach Dave Shyiak. “We certainly did not help that with our lackluster play. We were not sharp and again, we did not have any legs.”
Gunderson played exceptional for the Seawolves in the first, including robbing Nick Bjugstad from the side of the goal mouth.
Rau extended his consecutive scoring streak to six games, opening the scoring by tipping the puck past a screened Gunderson at 9:55. Zach Budish camped in front of the goalie as Nate Schmidt took the shot from the blue line.
Seth Ambroz made it 2-0, pouncing on a loose puck 15 feet in front of the Net. Jake Parenteau forced a turnover off the side wall to start the play.
The Seawolves struck early in the second, scoring just 36 seconds into the period making it a one-goal game. Facing away from the net, Kory Roy grabbed a loose puck off a rebound about 10 feet out and backhanded a pass that was redirected by Matt Bailey past Adam Wilcox.
“When we got that one and even when it was 3-1, I still thought we had a chance,” Shyiak said. “I think we went on the power play and again our power play was not sharp and they came back and scored that forth goal. It was game over.”
At 9:29 of the second, Budish buried the puck into an empty net on a feed from Sam Warning from in tight on Gunderson. Warning had a chance to shoot, but Budish had a better angle. The play drew Gunderson way out of position and gave Budish most of the net.
Late in the second period right after a power play by the Gophers expired, Rau picked up a puck in the neutral zone, skated around two tired Seawolves’ defenseman all the way to the net, releasing a backhand that eluded Gunderson. It was Rau’s second of the game and took any remaining wind out of Anchorage’s sail.
Additional Gopher goals were scored by Nate Condon and AJ Michaelson.
Next weekend, Minnesota plays host to North Dakota, while Anchorage hosts Minnesota State.
“Oh man, we are so excited [for] rivalry weekend,” said Rau. “It does not get much better than that, so we are ready to go.”