Gophers beat Fighting Hawks in first game at Grand Forks since 2012

Minnesota won 2-1 against North Dakota but was outshot 35-18.

by Drew Cove

The Gophers faced their old rival back at Ralph Engelstad Arena for the first time since 2012.

Reminiscent of the past battles between North Dakota and Minnesota, the game came down to the wire.

No. 8 Minnesota (3-2-0, 1-1-0 Big Ten) beat its longtime rival No. 4 North Dakota (3-1-1, 0-0-0 NCHC) 2-1 Friday night to a sellout crowd of 11,862 in Grand Forks, North Dakota. The Gophers committed eight penalties and scored no power-play goals, but found a way to win.

“It’s not often you’re going to come up here and lose the specialty [teams] 1-0 and still be able to win a game,” said head coach Don Lucia.

The Fighting Hawks were down 2-1 with 4.7 seconds remaining, and the faceoff was in the Gophers zone. The arena was energized as North Dakota pulled its goaltender, and the home team had one last chance to send the game to overtime.

Enter Minnesota forward Jack Ramsey.

Minnesota lost the faceoff, and the puck went back to North Dakota’s defensemen. As the Fighting Hawks defenseman took a shot from the middle of the ice, Ramsey went down to block the puck and sent it ricocheting outside the defensive zone, sealing the Gophers victory.

While No. 8 Minnesota recorded only 18 shots in the entire game, the result came down to blocked shots.

“It’s unbelievable,” said goaltender Eric Schierhorn. “It energizes me, it energizes the team, [it] brings us closer as a team. The sellout you saw tonight from all of our guys was unbelievable. … That’s the reason why we won.”

The Gophers blocked 29 shots Friday, with six coming from defenseman Tyler Nanne alone. Defenseman Jack Glover finished with five of his own, and Ramsey had four, including the potentially game-saving block in the last 4.7 seconds of the contest.

Minnesota’s result can also be credited to Schierhorn, who stopped 34 of North Dakota’s 35 shots.

The Gophers held a 1-0 lead through the end of the second period. They scored their second goal, the game-winner, 12 minutes into the third period from defenseman Steve Johnson.

“It felt great,” Johnson said. “It’s obviously been awhile, but whenever you can jump into the play like I did there, you’ve got to take advantage of it.”

Johnson’s goal marked his first since Feb. 25, 2016 against Michigan. That was the longest scoreless streak for any Gophers active player — 48 games.

The assist on Johnson’s goal came from forward Rem Pitlick, who gave the Gophers their first goal, and their first lead. 

Pitlick’s goal came in the first period on Minnesota’s second shot of the night, after another slow beginning to the first period on a Friday, being down 9-1 on shots at one point.

“I’m just the beneficiary of two great players in Tyler Sheehy and Casey Mittelstadt,” Pitlick said. “I went on the breakaway and luckily it went in, [it] squeaked by his blocker.”

Pitlick mentioned the number of penalties in the game keeping him away from his new-found linemates, with eight penalties called on the Gophers and seven on the Fighting Hawks.

“The penalty killers only gave up the one [goal],” Lucia said. “I thought [they] did a pretty good job. Just a good team win.”