Isackson stars in 7-0 exhibition win

Christian Isackson scored three goals Saturday as the Gophers crushed the University of Lethbridge at Mariucci Arena.

Minnesota defender fights for the puck during Saturday's game against Lethbridge at Mariucci Arena.

Mark Vancleave

Minnesota defender fights for the puck during Saturday’s game against Lethbridge at Mariucci Arena.

Drew Claussen

Sophomore Christian Isackson scored the first three goals of his college career Saturday at Mariucci Arena — even though his season statistics won’t show it.

Isackson lit the lamp twice during a 5-minute major power play in the first period of the Gophers’ 7-0 exhibition win over the University of Lethbridge.

“Tonight was great for Christian from a confidence standpoint,” head coach Don Lucia said. “Last year he never played at the pace he needed to play with and [didn’t] have a little bit of tenacity. He looks like he’s got a little bit more of that.”

Isackson didn’t have any points last season and only played in 11 games. Lucia compared him to junior Nate Schmidt, who also had a less-than-stellar freshman year before bursting onto the scene during his sophomore campaign.

Schmidt said he would be happy if Isackson followed in his footsteps.

“He worked really hard last year,” Schmidt said. “It [showed] off tonight that he went out there and capitalized on his opportunities — he put the puck in the net when he had to.”

Isackson was the right wing on the first line that also featured Nick Bjugstad and Kyle Rau. The Pine City, Minn., native said it helped a lot to play with such great players.

Lucia hinted that the first line could stay the same when the regular season begins next weekend. That leaves the possibility of having a second line that features Erik Haula, joined by captain Zach Budish and either Nate Condon or Sam Warning.

The Gophers were the first of three exhibition games for Lethbridge against Western Collegiate Hockey Association
opponents.

Minnesota looked rusty at times during the first period, including a penalty kill in which it failed to clear the puck multiple times. But the Gophers carried a 2-0 lead into the break. Isackson notched another goal in the second period to complete the natural hat trick.

Warning and Mark Alt added goals in the second, and the Gophers started the third period with a comfortable 5-0 lead. Ben Marshall and Seth Ambroz scored in the final stanza to bring the goal total to seven.

Both Michael Shibrowski and Adam Wilcox saw time between the pipes for Minnesota. Shibrowski played the first 30 minutes and stopped nine shots, and Wilcox stopped seven to close the game.

“I thought they both did a good job,” Lucia said of his goalies. “I thought [Shibrowski] made a couple big saves there in the second period. I thought they handled the puck and made good decisions with it.”

Lethbridge’s two goaltenders had a tougher time, thanks in part to the 65 shots Minnesota amassed.

Because it was an exhibition game, Minnesota’s lines were a little juggled. Twenty-four players dressed for the game, including five true freshmen. The Gophers rolled with nearly five full forward lines and four defensive lines, compared to the traditional format of four forward lines and three defensive lines.