Minnesota earns split with UND

The Gophers snapped a three-game losing streak with a win Saturday.

Dane Mizutani

GRAND FORKS, N.D. âÄî Ben Blood was clearly frustrated as both teams lined up to shake hands following the 6-2 beatdown the Gophers laid on North Dakota on Saturday night.

Blood skated through the line of Gophers connecting his right hand with their left hand but his demeanor quickly changed when he reached forward Kyle Rau.

Blood wanted to send a message.

He went after the Minnesota freshman with a clear shove to the face, and RauâÄôs teammate Seth Ambroz stepped in, and the volatile situation gave way to chaos.

Blood and Ambroz wrestled to the ground before the referees were able to restrain both men.

The Gophers returned to their locker room and left Ralph Engelstad Arena with a series split and snapped their first three-game losing skid of the season in the process.

No. 5 Minnesota (16-8-1, 12-4-0 WCHA) jumped out to an early lead Friday but a late second-period goal and Brock Nelson game-winner with less than five minutes to play propelled UND to a 2-1 victory much to the elation of the announced crowd of 11,846.

âÄúThe crowd was definitely unbelievable tonight,âÄù Nelson said Friday. âÄúThat was probably the loudest I think itâÄôs ever been when IâÄôve been here. It was good to see.âÄù

Neither team provided much firepower in the first period, amassing 15 shots in total.

Danny Kristo, an Eden Prairie, Minn., native, was the exception to the offensive complacency for UND, as he accounted for three of his teamâÄôs seven shots in the frame.

However, late in the period, KristoâÄôs night came to an abrupt halt when he leveled Minnesota defenseman Ben Marshall with a check from behind.

Kristo received a game misconduct for the illegal hit and the Gophers started a five-minute power play that carried over into the second period.

Minnesota was unable to score on the extended power play, but Rau âÄî as he has seemed to do all year âÄî cleaned up a Zach Budish rebound shortly after to put the Gophers up 1-0.

Despite KristoâÄôs ejection, UND continued its attack, and justwhen it seemed the Gophers would escape with a one-goal lead heading into the third period, Minnesota committed an untimely turnover that led to an even more untimely goal.

Andrew MacWilliam lit the lamp for the first time in his 102-game career to tie the game at 1-1 with nine seconds left in the period.

Neither team converted on its power play opportunities in the third period.

Then, Nelson âÄî UNDâÄôs leading scorer âÄî took matters into his own hands.

âÄúI thought the game might be headed to a tie at 1-1 but they made the play at the end,âÄù Minnesota head coach Don Lucia said Friday.

Following a scrum against the boards, Nelson controlled the puck and beat Kent Patterson five-hole to put UND on top for good.

It was a completely different story Saturday as the Gophers triumphed 6-2.

âÄúI thought we were a step slow,âÄù UND head coach Dave Hakstol said Saturday. âÄúThatâÄôs not the way our team can play and be successful. Every part of our game was a step off of where it needed to be tonight.âÄù

Minnesota set the tone early and never looked back as leading scorer Nick Bjugstad beat goaltender Aaron Dell twice in the first period to make it 2-0 and take the announced crowd of 11,964 out of it.

âÄúIt was good to get a couple goals right away, and we got momentum from there,âÄù Bjugstad said Saturday. âÄúYesterday we got the first goal, but we didnâÄôt really feed off of that.âÄù

The Gophers carried that momentum right into the second period as Ambroz and Nate Schmidt scored to make it 4-0.

No. 17 UND (12-9-2, 8-8-0 WCHA) battled back, and Michael Parks got his team on the board with a goal off a deflection at 9:47 into the period.

Immediately following ParksâÄô goal, fans littered the ice with dead gophers and the game had to be delayed as the blood was scraped from the ice.

âÄúI thought they were fake âÄî then I looked at them today and I realized they were real,âÄù Bjugstad said. âÄúYouâÄôve got to love the fans here. Obviously we donâÄôt really love them, but itâÄôs good to play in this environment.âÄù

This act, paired with the actual goal, seemed to ignite the crowd and the home team.

Danny Kristo made it 4-2 less than four minutes later after he weaved his way through the Gophers defense and fired a shot that beat Kent Patterson.

UND continued to pepper Patterson late in the second, but Nate Condon helped keep a possible comeback at bay when he scored with 39 seconds left in the second period.

âÄúWe came out strong in the second period âÄî popped in two right away âÄî and kind of let up the next 10 minutes,âÄù Condon said. âÄúI skated up the ice and âĦ luckily squeaked one in there [to make it 5-2].âÄù

Condon added a shorthanded goal early in the third to make it 6-2 but the game was already well in hand for the Gophers and the game ended with that same score.

âÄúComing up here and getting points was important for us,âÄù Lucia said. âÄúIt was important for our psyche to come up here and get the win and get on the bus feeling good in our preparation for Colorado College. I liked the way we played all weekend.âÄù

Minnesota also moved back into a tie for first place in the WCHA as Minnesota-Duluth lost its first game in nearly three months Saturday.

 

-Sam Gordon contributed
to this report.