Minnesota sweeps Anchorage, heads back to Final Five

The Gophers scored four goals in the third period to win 7-3.

Gophers senior Kent Patterson was named the WCHA Goaltending Champion this week after posting a 2.06 goals against average in the regular season.

Satchell Mische-Richter, Daily File Photo

Gophers senior Kent Patterson was named the WCHA Goaltending Champion this week after posting a 2.06 goals against average in the regular season.

by Dane Mizutani

Minnesota is headed back to the Final Five for the first time in three years after a series sweep of Alaska-Anchorage in the first round of the WCHA playoffs.

“It’s been a climb,” head coach Don Lucia said. “There’s been some frustration, but a year ago at this time… I said I don’t think we are that far away. I don’t know if everyone believed me at that time … but this began a year ago.”

The Gophers squeaked out a 2-1 victory Friday and followed it up Saturday with a 7-3 blowout.

Erik Haula paced Minnesota with a six-point weekend and had the game-winning goal on both Friday and Saturday.

“It’s going well,” Haula said. “We’ve got to have our players step up and this weekend it was me.”  

It didn’t look promising as the Gophers fell behind by two goals in the second period Saturday.

However, a late surge in the second period, coupled with an offensive eruption in the third led way to the series sweep.

Jake Hansen scored the first goal of the game for the Gophers on a deflection, but Anchorage responded in the second period.

Matt Bailey collected the puck on the power play and flipped it past Kent Patterson to even the score at 1-1.

He wasn’t finished, nor was the Anchorage attack.

Bailey netted his second goal of the game on a 5-on-3 power play and 23 seconds later Scott Allen stretched the lead to 3-1.

Anchorage went 3-for-3 with the man advantage in the period and looked in complete control.

“They were really good on the power play this weekend,” Haula said. “We’ve got to work on our penalty kill.”

Zach Budish cut the deficit in half and got the comeback rolling with a goal at 11:16.

Budish controlled a pass from Kyle Rau and had the entire right side of the net open for the shot to make it 2-1.

The Seawolves took three ill-advised penalties after they went up by two goals and left the door wide open for Minnesota.

The Gophers apparently appreciated the generosity and pulled even with a goal from Nick Bjugstad late in the third period.

Prior to the game-tying goal, Minnesota was 0-for-6 on the power play in the game. Bjugstad made sure that number did not reach seven and tied the game at 3-3.

“I think once they scored that power-play goal … that kind of relaxed them our team going into the third,” Lucia said.

The Gophers retook the lead in the third period on a goal from Haula and then opened the flood gates in the subsequent five-minute span.

Haula added another goal 18 seconds later and Seth Helgeson and Sam Warning followed suit with a goal apiece.

Minnesota held a 7-3 late in the game and with 44 seconds left in the game head coach Don Lucia called for senior goaltender Jake Kremer.

Kremer skated onto the ice to a rousing ovation and guarded the crease for the first time in his four-year career. He did not face a shot and the game ended with a 7-3 victory.

Minnesota will play Friday at the Xcel Energy Center in the Final Five, but its opponent is to be determined.