Minnesota sweeps Bemidji State

The Gophers scored within the first two minutes of both games.

Defenseman Nate Schmidt clears the puck out of the Minnesota zone Saturday night at Mariucci Arena.  The Gophers swept Bemidji State with a 3-0 win Friday night and a 4-1 victory Saturday.

Satchell Mische-Richter

Defenseman Nate Schmidt clears the puck out of the Minnesota zone Saturday night at Mariucci Arena. The Gophers swept Bemidji State with a 3-0 win Friday night and a 4-1 victory Saturday.

Dane Mizutani

Minnesota head coach Don Lucia said he liked his team’s position in the WCHA even following a sweep to Denver a weekend ago.

He should like it even more after this weekend.

The Gophers avenged their rough series in Denver last week with a sweep of Bemidji State this weekend.

“It was a difficult weekend in Denver last week, and we talked about how important it was to move on, and guys mentally and physically were able to do that and get four big points this weekend,” Lucia said.

They were big points indeed, as Minnesota-Duluth won and tied with Minnesota State, and Denver split with Wisconsin.

The Gophers now have a two-point lead over UMD and a four-point lead over Denver in the WCHA standings.

 “We haven’t gotten swept all year, and I guess it’s going to happen at some point,” Erik Haula said Saturday. “I think it kind of brought our team together, and we realized how important every game is. Now we’ve just got to take advantage of all the games.”

No. 7 Minnesota (21-11-1, 17-7-0 WCHA) took advantage on Friday and Saturday with 3-0 and 4-1 wins, respectively.

The Gophers’ first line guided them in the opening game, and the second line took over in the second game.

Minnesota also played an uncharacteristically clean series and only took three penalties all weekend to earn a sweep over in-state rival Bemidji State. The Gophers finished 9-1-0 against teams from Minnesota this season.

“We had great success within our state this year, and that was something we talked about when the year began,” Lucia said.

Minnesota jumped on the Beavers right away with a goal exactly one minute into the game Friday and never looked back.

It did not take a single penalty in the game either — a stark contrast from the 14 penalties it took in the series against Denver.

“I thought we played hard. I thought we played physical, but we played smart too,” Lucia said Friday.

Zach Budish picked up where he left off last weekend in the scoring department and paced Minnesota with two goals in the first period Friday.

Budish used every inch of his 6-foot-3, 214-pound frame to get his stick on a Mark Alt shot from the point for his first goal of the game. His second goal came as a gift-wrapped rebound shot that floated just outside the crease eight minutes later.

Bemidji State (15-14-3, 9-12-3) struggled to create chances offensively in the first period and was severely outshot, 14-2.

Nick Bjugstad stretched the lead to three in the second with his team-leading 22nd goal of the season.

“I thought top-to-bottom we played really well,” Bjugstad said. “It was a good team effort all around, and I think it was one of our better games.”

Bemidji State goaltender Dan Bakala gave up three goals total last weekend against Colorado College, but he surrendered three in the first 27 minutes Friday.

Bakala recovered from the slow start to the game and did not allow another goal the rest of the way.

However, the damage was done, and the Gophers waltzed to a 3-0 win and Kent Patterson’s seventh shutout of the season.

“They played possessed tonight,” Bemidji State head coach Tom Serratore said Friday. “They were definitely a national championship-caliber team tonight, and that’s how good they are. We couldn’t contain them.”

It was much of the same on Saturday, and Haula scored twice to complete the series sweep of the Beavers.

Haula has now scored in three straight games for just the third time this season.

The Gophers struck right away again on Saturday when Haula went bar down just 1:17 into the game to make it 1-0.

“We played a really good game last night, and we knew that they were going to come out strong in the first 10 [minutes] of the first period,” Haula said Saturday. “I think we just responded great tonight.”

Minnesota controlled the first period but could not keep the Beavers off the board.

The Gophers took their first penalty of the series, and Bemidji State capitalized on the ensuing power play.

Brad Hunt tied the game at 1-1 with a slap shot from just inside the blue line that Kent Patterson struggled to locate. It was the first and only goal Patterson allowed in the series.

Jake Hansen got his stick on a Justin Holl shot early in the second period to break the tie.

“It was one of those games where, fortunately, we were able to play with the lead, but you never felt safe with the game tonight,” Lucia said.

Hansen’s goal early in the second proved to be the game-winner, but his linemate, Haula, wasn’t done. Haula added some insurance with a one-timer on the power play that stretched the lead to 3-1.

Seth Ambroz tapped in an empty-net goal to slam the door shut.

 

-Drew Claussen contributed
to this report.