MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota survived a scare in its opening game in the WCHA tournament Friday night against Bemidji State, but Kyle Rau’s goal at 13:18 of overtime gave the Gophers a 2-1 victory.
Andrew Walsh played stellar in goal for the Beavers and made a career-high 49 saves.
“It was great to get the win,” said Rau. “We knew that if we kept putting the puck on net, we’d eventually get another one in. Hats off to Walsh, though, he played a heck of a game for them.”
“[Walsh] played well [and] there was no question he gave us a chance,” remarked BSU coach Tom Serratore.
Rau’s goal came off a rebound on a shot by Nate Schmidt. It was a rare large rebound that Walsh left out front and Rau one-timed it home.
“We knew that was going to be the kind of goal that would decide the game one way or the other,” Rau said. “It wasn’t going to be some flashy play with the way both goalies were playing.”
“It was going to take a rebound goal to beat [Walsh] tonight,” added Minnesota coach Don Lucia. “I thought both goalies were sharp. Adam [Wilcox] didn’t obviously have as much work, [but] he made a couple timely saves.”
Both teams had solid chances to score in the overtime.
Minnesota’s Christian Isackson missed a solid chance on the first shift of the stanza. BSU’s Cory Ward failed to get shot off staring down a wide-open net and Walsh robbed Seth Ambroz on a point-blank tap in getting his skate on the puck.
Brance Orban forced overtime with 38 seconds left on the clock with the extra attacker for Bemidji State. It was just the Beavers’ 11th shot of the game and came on a bouncing puck that Orban stabilized on the forehand, dragged it around Wilcox and then lifted a backhand over the goaltender.
Ben Marshall opened the scoring at 6:56 of the second for the Gophers. Rau set up the play by chasing down his own dump in behind the net and threw a centering pass up the middle. The pass hit a defenseman and slowed down at the top of the right circle where Marshall was cheating in from the blue line and put the puck just inside the pipe on the blocker side.
Wilcox came up big on a breakaway attempt by Jordan George, who challenged him with six minutes left in the second. It came off a sequence in which the Gophers where pummeling Walsh from all angles. The Gophers’ defense misplayed a puck at the line and George picked up the loose puck and skated in all alone on Wilcox.
The first period was uneventful.
The Gophers possessed the puck for much of the opening period. The Beavers only attempted six shots, landing three on net, while the Gophers attempted 23 shots, 14 of which were on point and saved by Walsh.
“I know it stings, you just got to wipe it out of your memory bank and we just got to get ready to compete tomorrow,” remarked Serratore.
“I think the overtime is good for us,” Lucia said. “It is the first time we played over five minutes. We haven’t played a winner. It gives us a lot of confidence. We are halfway there. Bemidji is going to play the same way tomorrow. Work hard from start to finish [and] we have to make sure we do the same.”