Minnesota sweeps Beavers in home opener

The Gophers beat Bemidji State 5-2 and 5-3 to improve to 4-0-0 this season.

by Ben Gotz

Despite hosting an in-state opponent, the Gophers did everything but make Bemidji State feel at home.

The Gophers (4-0-0) swept the Beavers in their home opener over the weekend, scoring five goals in each of their two victories.

The Gophers’ success on special teams was a big factor in the two victories, as they scored four goals off the power play.

“We’re clicking right now on the power play, and that’s good to see because so much of the game depends on good special teams,” senior forward Travis Boyd said. “We talk about winning the special team battle every game, every weekend, and that was a big reason why we came out with two wins this weekend.”

Boyd scored two special teams goals Friday night in the Gophers’ 5-2 victory: one shorthanded and one on the power play.

It was the first multi-goal game of Boyd’s college career, and it was also the first time he had scored a shorthanded goal.

Boyd said the team’s continuity on its special teams units has helped lead it to early success.

“Coming into this year, I feel a lot more comfortable than last year,” Boyd said. “I think it just comes with being familiar and knowing where everyone is going to be.”

Even though the Gophers led for most of the first game, junior goaltender Adam Wilcox was under pressure in goal most of the night.

Head coach Don Lucia said after the game that the team made some poor decisions with the puck that led to turnovers, but Wilcox made several highlight-worthy saves to preserve his team’s lead.

One of Wilcox’s saves, a last-second stick swipe to take away an easy Bemidji State goal, wound up on SportsCenter’s top 10 plays for the night. Wilcox joked after the game that the play was “90 percent skill, 10 percent luck.”

“That guy’s just unbelievable,” Boyd said after Friday’s game. “He made a lot of big-time saves for us tonight, and if he doesn’t make those saves, they could easily have put in five goals and we could have had a serious game.”

The Gophers added two more power-play goals Saturday night to give themselves a 5-3 victory and a home sweep.

Bemidji State scored first in the game, and the next few minutes were the first time the Gophers had trailed this season.

“Four games into the season, we’re not going to be winning every game this season, so we expected it,” sophomore forward Justin Kloos said. “I think we just had to buckle down.”

The Gophers rallied and gained the lead after the first period, but they found themselves trailing again after two consecutive Bemidji State goals in the second.

Kloos scored a late second-period goal to tie the game, and then seven minutes into the third, Boyd scored his third goal of the series to give his team the lead.

The Gophers held on from there, with junior defenseman Brady Skjei scoring an empty-net goal to seal the sweep.

Lucia said after the game that it was good for the team to get back to its normal schedule for the regular season in the series: having a full week of practice followed by back-to-back games.

“I like the fact that now we’re back in the rhythm of our season,” Lucia said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do this year.”