For the first time since Dec. 30, the third-ranked Minnesota men's hockey team won on a Friday night, topping in-state rival St. Cloud State 2-1 in the first game of a home-and-home series at Mariucci Arena. The Gophers received goals from senior Jake Hansen and sophomore Nick Bjugstad and held the Huskies to a season-low 13 shots on goal on the night.
In the first period, Minnesota got off to a slow start and almost paid for it when SCSU forward David Eddy had a golden chance on a one-timer in front at the 7:08 mark. The Gophers escaped danger, however, as goaltender Kent Patterson sprawled across the crease to make a huge save.
At 13:26, Hansen scored the game's first goal, taking an Erik Haula feed and walking in alone on Huskies' netminder Mike Lee from the right side. Lee made the initial stop, but Hansen batted the puck out of the air before it hit the ice to put Minnesota ahead 1-0.
Early in the second period, St. Cloud knotted the score, taking advantage of its second power play chance of the night.
With 16 seconds left on a Tom Serratore cross-checking penalty, Ben Hanowski roofed the puck over an outstretched Patterson and diving defenseman Nate Schmidt after receiving a back-door pass from Andrew Prochno. Hanowski fired a shot off the post 13 seconds earlier.
Bjugstad gave Minnesota the lead for good with 8:11 to play in the middle frame, just under five minutes after he backhanded a Ben Marshall rebound off the pipe.
After Bjugstad and freshman Kyle Rau teamed up to chip the puck out of the Gopher zone past Prochno, the duo joined Hansen on a three-on-one rush. Hansen held the puck and waited for the SCSU's Nick Jensen to bite before setting up Bjugstad for a tap-in goal just outside of the goalmouth to Lee's left.
Hansen had a chance to cushion the lead with 4:44 to go in the period, but Lee snared the right winger's snap shot, preventing a rebound attempt.
The Huskies came close to tying the score for a second time with just under two minutes left in the stanza when Hanowski collected a rebound just outside of Minnesota's crease, but Patterson made an acrobatic save to preserve the lead heading into the third period.
The Gophers played stellar defense in the final 20 minutes, allowing just one shot on goal. Minnesota came up with six blocked shots in the third and kept the Huskies without a shot on back-to-back power plays chances in the final 5:55 to solidify the one-goal victory.
Sophomore Nate Condon had the best chance of the final frame, but his breakaway attempt with 1:24 to play resulted in a snap shot that hit the post. Condon drew a slashing call on the Huskies' Taylor Johnson to ice the game on the play, which happened seconds after Seth Helgeson exited the penalty box.
Patterson finished the night with 12 saves, a career-low for a start in which he earned a win. St. Cloud's 13 shots were the lowest for a UM opponent since March 11, 2007 when Alaska-Anchorage had 12. The Gophers won that contest 3-1.
Minnesota, which went ahead 2-1 in the season series on Friday, will play SCSU for a fourth and final time in the 2011-12 regular season tomorrow night at the National Hockey Center in St. Cloud. The game is scheduled to start at 7 p.m.