Juniors step up, propel Gophers to 6-0 win in season opener

Nate Gotlieb

Juniors Kyle Rau, Seth Ambroz and Sam Warning scored Minnesota's first three goals, as the No. 5 Gophers beat Mercyhurst 6-0 in the opening round of the Ice Breaker Tournament on Friday night at Mariucci Arena.

Minnesota saw 10 skaters record a point, and freshmen Justin Kloos and Michael Brodzinski scored their first-career goals as the Gophers cruised to a season-opening win.

"The guys who scored tonight are some that we need to score," head coach Don Lucia said. 

Minnesota lost five juniors from last season's team, including four of its five leading scorers. The team this season will rely on contributions from its eight freshmen, but the remaining upperclassmen will play a key role.

"They're going to get more ice time," Lucia said.  "They have to do something with the opportunity and then we have to blend the young guys in."  

Rau, a pre-season all-American, scored the first goal on a power play late in the first period, tapping in a shot that a Mercyhurst defenseman deflected wide of the net.

Minnesota dominated the second period, scoring three goals and outshooting Mercyhurst 20-5.  It started with Ambroz's goal.

Early in the second, Ambroz fired a shot that deflected off the left post.  He gather his own rebound and flipped the puck near the crease, where it bounced off the skate of a Mercyhurst defender and into the net.

"That's how he scores his goals," sophomore goalie Adam Wilcox said.  "No one else is going to do that."

Warning added the team's third goal midway through the period, and Kloos scored his first-career goal a little less than five minutes later.

Sophomore defenseman Mike Reilly added the team's fifth goal with 8:50 remaining in the third period, and Brodzinski flicked in a wrist shot with less than two minutes remaining.

The Gophers outshot Mercyhurst 48-25, including 34-13 after two periods.  Wilcox had his fourth-career shutout and was largely unchallenged by Mercyhurst's attack.

"We knew  that we'd have our hands full," Mercyhurst coach Rick Gotkin said, "and Minnesota did not disappoint."

Minnesota will face New Hampshire in the tournament championship at 7 p.m. Saturday at Mariucci. The No. 13 Wildcats beat Clarkson 4-1 on Friday afternoon.