Gophers goalie saves the day in first game at Grand Forks

Eric Schierhorn faced 35 shots in the 2-1 win over North Dakota.

Jack Warrick

In the first game for Minnesota back at North Dakota’s Ralph Engelstad Arena in six seasons, the Fighting Hawks barraged Gophers goalie Eric Schierhorn with 35 shots.

And Schierhorn saved all but one.

Schierhorn had 34 saves on 35 shots in No. 8 Minnesota’s (3-2-0, 1-1-0 Big Ten) 2-1 win over No. 4 North Dakota (3-1-1, 0-0-0 NCHC) Friday night.

“[Schierhorn] was huge. He was on fire tonight,” said defenseman Steve Johnson. “He works really hard and we expect that out of him, and he’s a great goalie.”

The Hawks had 11 shots in the first period, 13 in the second and another 11 in the third, compared with 18 overall for the Gophers. Minnesota had eight penalties on the night to add to Schierhorn’s stress. 

Schierhorn saved all but one goal — a slap shot coming off North Dakota from the blue line. He saved 34 shots, and was a big reason the Gophers escaped the first game with a win.

“He usually rises up, if you look at his history in big games,” said head coach Don Lucia. “In tough environments on the road, he’s done a really good job with that.”

The sold-out crowd of 11,862 proved to be loud and vicious towards Schierhorn.

“Tonight I just kind of blocked it out,” Schierhorn said. “I mean you know they’re there, and they’re loud, it’s a pretty impressive crowd, but you’re so focused on the game that you’re not worried about that.”

In last year’s North Dakota series, the two teams played at Mariucci Arena.

In the first game of that series, Schierhorn saved 17 shots and let in five, for a 5-5 tie. Schierhorn posted a shutout in the second game, on 33 North Dakota shots, and the Gophers walked out with a 2-0 win.

“I played pretty bad game one, but I didn’t even think about that going into this game,” Schierhorn said. “This is a new game, a new series and that wasn’t on my mind.”

The Gophers defensemen took some of the work off Schierhorn. The Gophers blocked 29 shots to North Dakota’s six. Tyler Nanne led the team with six, and Jack Ramsey had four, including the final slap shot block with five seconds left in the game.

Schierhorn and the Gophers will play the finale of the series Saturday night at 7 p.m. It has been seven games and four seasons since the Gophers have lost to North Dakota.

“It was unreal, I mean I wish we could do this four times every year,” Schierhorn said. “It’s the best rivalry in college hockey, and this is why you go to a school like Minnesota: for packed houses like this.”