Gophers sweep UNO, will control their own destiny next weekend

Jake Parenteau lifted his team to victory Friday, but Nick Bjugstad went down with an undisclosed injury Saturday.

Gophers forward Nick Bjugstad handles a puck during a game against Bemidji State on Feb. 17 at Mariucci Arena.

Satchell Mische-Richter, Daily File Photo

Gophers forward Nick Bjugstad handles a puck during a game against Bemidji State on Feb. 17 at Mariucci Arena.

by Dane Mizutani

OMAHA, Neb. — Minnesota will control its own destiny in its quest for the conference title next weekend against rival Wisconsin, but there’s question whether it will be without its best player.

Nick Bjugstad went down in the second period Saturday with an undisclosed injury and did not return. Still, the Gophers held on for the 3-2 victory to complete the sweep of Nebraksa-Omaha.

Head coach Don Lucia didn’t seem worried postgame, although Bjugstad missed the remainder of Saturday’s game.

“I think he’ll be fine,” Lucia said. “He got dinged a little bit, and it was questionable whether he should come back in the third, and we just made the decision at that point in time to look at the big picture.”

Lucia didn’t reveal any further information about the injury.

No. 6 Minnesota (23-11-1, 19-7-0 WCHA) has now won four-straight games after being swept by Denver two weeks ago and is clinging to a two-point lead over Minnesota-Duluth in the WCHA.

“We’ve just got to carry this momentum into next weekend and take care of business,” defenseman Mark Alt said Saturday.

Jake Parenteau propelled the Gophers to a win Friday with the first goal of his collegiate career. He roped a slap shot from just inside the blue line past Ryan Massa in overtime to lift his team to victory.

“I shot it upper left, and I didn’t even know it went in until all the guys were chasing me,” Parenteau said Friday. “I had so many emotions going through my head.”

Minnesota took an early 1-0 lead Friday when freshman Sam Warning rocketed a wrist shot from the left of the slot to beat Massa.

However, the Gophers took six penalties on the night, and UNO (14-14-6, 11-10-5 WCHA) made them pay.

Brock Montpetit evened the score on the power play midway through the second period, and Jayson Megna gave UNO the lead with a shorthanded goal after Montpetit tied the game.

UNO generated multiple odd-man rushes on its penalty kill, but Kent Patterson denied many of those chances to finish with 22 saves on the night.

Bjugstad pulled his team even and sucked the life out of the 9,108 fans on hand with his goal early in the third period.

Bjugstad deked a UNO defender and slid the puck five-hole past Massa to make it 2-2.

“It was a trickler and [Zach] Budish’s big rear was right in front of the net,” Bjugstad said. “I don’t think the goaltender saw it.”

Neither team scored the rest of the period, forcing the game into overtime where Parenteau lit the lamp to end it.

“We got off to a good start in the first, they kind of took it over in the second, and we kind of wrestled it back in the third,” Lucia said Friday. “We got the break tonight, and … sometimes that’s what you need.”

Minnesota went down early, Saturday, but its first deficit of the game was short-lived.

Brent Gwidt scored 6:05 into the first period to push UNO in front, but 41 seconds later Alt returned the favor.

“They came out with better energy than we did, and that first goal seemed to give us a little energy,” Lucia said.

The Gophers weren’t done.

Kyle Rau got into the scoring action on the power play with a diving effort right of the crease less than three minutes later.

That 2-minute-and-34-second span ended Massa’s night.

The Mavericks replaced him in net with senior John Faulkner after Massa allowed two goals on four shots.

Faulkner played much better throughout the remainder of the period and carried his strong play into the second period, until Rau scored for the second time.

Erik Haula threaded a pass to Rau on the power play, and Rau hammered it into the back of the net.

“It was an unbelievable pass, right on my tape, and I didn’t have to do much for it,” Rau said. “That was all [Haula].”

Minnesota carried a 3-1 lead into the third period despite getting outshot in the second.

Bjugstad wasn’t on the bench in the third period, and Minnesota let UNO right back into the game.

Matt White intercepted a lazy cross-ice pass by Justin Holl and bolted up ice on a breakaway.

White faked a shot and put the puck past Patterson to narrow the deficit to one goal.

“I went over and talked to Justin [and said], ‘We need you the rest of the game so keep your head up,’” Lucia said. “It was a colossal mistake, but I felt unless we gave them something, we were in pretty good shape.”

The Gophers played conservatively the rest of the way and managed to hold on.

Minnesota can earn at least a share of the MacNaughton Cup with a split next weekend but can win it outright with a sweep or a win and a tie.