Starting wasn’t the Gophers’ strong suit against Bemidji State over the weekend — but finishing was.
Minnesota swept the Beavers with a 6-3 win Friday and 5-1 win Saturday, despite giving up the first goal each game.
“We didn’t start too good [both days],” junior forward Sam Warning said. “So we’ve got to work on that this week in practice.”
Warning tallied a goal and two assists Friday while adding another two goals Saturday. He has nine points this season and is tied for the national scoring lead.
His first goal Saturday tied the game at 1-1 after the Beavers’ Jeff Jubinville struck first about two and a half minutes in.
Without junior captain Kyle Rau, who missed most of the first period Saturday getting stitches after cutting his leg on a check, it took the Gophers nearly 15 minutes to respond to the Beavers’ goal.
Warning angled a shot from the left with a big wind-up, and the puck bounced through bodies before finding its way into the net to make it 1-1.
“That was a pretty lucky goal,” Warning said, “but I’ll take it.”
Gophers head coach Don Lucia said he agreed that goal was a momentum shifter for his team Saturday.
“We were fortunate to come out after one [period] with the [tie],” Lucia said. “Sam’s goal was flukey, but that allowed us to settle in. We were better the second and third period.”
Warning’s goal opened the floodgates. He and freshman forward Taylor Cammarata scored in the second period, and sophomore defenseman Mike Reilly and freshman forward Justin Kloos netted goals in the third en route to the win.
It was a similar story Friday night, but also a similar end result.
Minnesota again gave up the first goal to Bemidji State’s Danny Mattson about three and a half minutes into the first period, but it managed to respond with a goal of its own.
Gophers junior forward Travis Boyd said his team came out flat in the game. But he said his team termed him a “spark plug” after his tying goal barely a minute later.
Junior defenseman Ben Marshall added a goal before the period was out, but the Beavers’ Cory Ward tied the game again early in the second.
Warning snatched the lead away with about five minutes left in the second — another “big goal” for the junior, according to Lucia.
Freshman forward Hudson Fasching put the puck away just seconds into the third period, and while Bemidji State made a valiant comeback effort with a goal from Radoslav Illo about three minutes later, goals from Gophers senior forward Nate Condon and redshirt freshman forward Connor Reilly sealed the win.
While the Gophers’ starts need some work, how they ended both games was rock solid.
“The difference in the game is we had some guys who could finish,” Lucia said. “And they didn’t.”