Rau leads Minnesota to exhibition win

The team’s three goalies combined for a shutout. Each played a period.

Ben Gotz

Despite shaking off some rust early in the game, the Gophers looked strong competing on the ice for the first time this season, defeating the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology 5-0 on Saturday in an exhibition game.

The Ooks outshot the Gophers in the first period, but thanks to senior captain Kyle Rau’s two goals and a shutout shared by the team’s three goaltenders, the Gophers came away with a convincing victory.

Minnesota had a few early miscommunications in its first taste of competitive hockey as a team since last April. The Gophers actually had their first official practice of the season hours before the game, so a few first-period miscues didn’t seem to come as a surprise.

“In the first period we were … trying to sort it out,” Rau said. “But that’s to be expected — it’s our first go-around. We’ll pick it up.”

The Gophers had a few early turnovers in the first period that the Ooks generated shots from, but goaltender Adam Wilcox stood firm in the net. And despite some sloppy play, the Gophers entered the locker room with the lead thanks to a goal from freshman defenseman Jack Glover.

In the second period, the Gophers began to take control of the game. After first-period jitters, Minnesota outshot the Ooks 28-12 the rest of the way.

Rau scored twice to give the Gophers a 3-0 lead after the second period. The first goal came less than a minute into the period, and the second came with nine seconds remaining.

Senior forward Travis Boyd said Rau’s second goal sparked the entire team.

“It just kick-started us, woke us up,” Boyd said. “And that’s what a captain is supposed to do. He’s supposed to get you going, and he did a good job of that tonight.”

The Gophers widened their lead in the third period with goals from senior forward Christian Isackson and Boyd, pushing the score to 5-0.

The Gophers freshmen ended up as big contributors in the victory, with three of them recording a point. Rau said it was good for them to finally get a taste of college hockey.

“You can try to get in shape as much as you want,” Rau said. “But you can’t get up to game speed, so it’s good to experience that.”

Both backup netminders — junior Ryan Coyne and freshman Nick Lehr — got some playing time behind the starter, Wilcox, and contributed to the team’s shutout.

“Coxy was great, as usual — nothing really new there,” Boyd said. “But I was really surprised and really happy to see Coyner and Lehr get in the net and be able to post shutouts, too.”

Even though it wasn’t always pretty, head coach Don Lucia seemed pleased with his team’s season opener.

“It was what I expected. We were a little scrambly in the first period,” Lucia said. “But all in all, we did a lot of good things. We moved the puck well. … It was a good team effort for us.”