Rau, Schmidt pace Gophers to easier win

Minnesota beat Alaska-Anchorage 7-1 to record its first WCHA sweep of the season.

Drew Claussen

Minnesota needed a lucky rabbit’s foot in the way of a late penalty to defeat Alaska-Anchorage on Friday. It found an easier way to win Saturday.

The Gophers dominated from the start and beat the Seawolves 7-1 at Mariucci Arena.

Kyle Rau notched his first career hat trick in the victory, and defenseman Nate Schmidt had four assists.

The weekend’s sweep of the Seawolves was the Gophers’ first Western Collegiate Hockey Association sweep of the season.

“It was a crucial weekend for us to get a couple points,” Schmidt said. “I think that this next weekend will really tell where we’re at.”

Minnesota welcomes North Dakota to Mariucci Arena next weekend for the final WCHA series between the two rivals.

Like it’s done many times in the past two seasons, Minnesota followed up a lackluster Friday performance with a strong Saturday showing.

Seth Ambroz and Kyle Rau scored for the Gophers in the first period. Minnesota allowed only two shots on goal during the period. The Gophers also had more shots on goal (12) than the Seawolves had attempted shots (7).

Rau said the first period was key in the victory.

“That’s our big mojo — come out of the locker room and get going right away,” Rau said. “We did that this game, and you can see it helped.”

Alaska-Anchorage cut the deficit to one less than a minute into the second period when Matt Bailey slid a backhanded shot past Adam Wilcox.

Zach Budish extended the Gophers’ lead later in the second after a couple of nice passes by Sam Warning and Nate Schmidt.

“I can’t say that I deserve all the credit,” Schmidt said of his performance Saturday. “Kyle Rau, Sam Warning, Nick Bjugstad — those guys made me look good tonight.”

With the second-period horn looming, Kyle Rau sliced through the Alaska-Anchorage defense and went 5-hole on goaltender Rob Gunderson to extend the lead to 4-1.

In the third, things got out of hand. Rau scored his hat trick goal, to which only one hat was thrown on the ice.

“Seriously, what is that?” the sophomore forward joked after the game.

Nate Condon also scored twice to give the game its final score.

“We were more in sync,” Gophers coach Don Lucia said. “We were hunting pucks better, we were moving it better. We just played a much better overall game tonight.”

The Gophers’ Seth Helgeson and the Seawolves’ Chris Crowell got in a scrap in the third period and were given double minors and 10-minute misconducts. Later, Matt Bailey was given a five-minute major and game misconduct for boarding.

Like Friday night, Alaska-Anchorage coach Dave Shyiak was displeased with the officiating.

“If they’re going to take hitting out of the game, they should take hitting out of the game,” Shyiak said. “You learn to play the game hard, it’s a physical game and to me, two of the four calls that they called near the boards were not penalties.”