Feb. 25, 2012
Two power-play goals by Kyle Rau at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Neb. on Saturday night helped vault the No. 6/5 Minnesota men’s hockey team record a 3-2 win and a series sweep over WCHA foe Nebraska Omaha. The victory came in head coach Don Lucia’s 1,000th game, improving his career coaching record to 592-325-83.
After scoring first in each of the last five games, the Gophers surrendered the game’s first goal on Saturday night.
Andrew Schmit of UNO, who received a pass in front of the Minnesota goalmouth from Dominic Zombo, fed teammate Brent Gwidt with a cross-crease pass to set-up Gwidt’s sixth goal of the season 6:05 into the game.
Just 41 seconds later, however, the Gophers tied the score while working on a four-on-four.
Defenseman Mark Alt rushed the puck into the Maverick zone and drove wide to the left around towering Nebraska Omaha defender Andrej Sustr. Alt then let loose a backhanded shot from the bottom of the left circle that got past freshman goaltender Ryan Massa inside the left post to even the score.
Less than two minutes following Alt’s tally, Friday night hero Jake Parenteau drew a cross-checking penalty deep in the Gopher zone on Michael Young.
At the midway point of the ensuing power play opportunity, Kyle Rau banked his own rebound off Massa’s skate and in after executing a give-and-go with Erika Haula to put Minnesota ahead 2-1.
Nebreaska Omaha head coach replaced Massa with senior John Faulkner following the goal.
Minnesota netminder Kent Patterson made 10 saves in the opening stanza, including key stops on quality opportunities by UNO’s Tony Turgeon and Ryan Walters to keep his team ahead after one.
In the second period, Rau looked to have extended the lead after 2:07 of play when Sustr deflected the freshman forward’s shorthanded breakaway chance into his own goal, but Sustr dislodged the Nebraska Omaha net before the puck crossed the goal line.
Exactly six minutes after Rau’s goal was disallowed, Turgeon was called for boarding Minnesota’s Nick Bjugstad and Rau and the Gophers capitalized.
Streaking up the left wing after skating the puck all the way up the ice from his own zone, Haula found Rau just outside the UNO crease and Rau tapped home his second goal of the night to pad the Gopher lead.
The 3-1 Minnesota advantage held until halfway through the final frame when Matt White beat Patterson five-hole on a shorthanded breakaway to make it a one-goal game, but Patterson and Gophers kept the Mavericks off the board in the final 9:21 close out the win.
The sweep was the Gophers’ eighth of the year and seventh in a WCHA series. Minnesota has seven Friday wins in conference play and has completed the sweep each time. With 38 points in the league, the Gophers are two points away from capturing their first regular-season WCHA title since 2006-07. They lead second-place Minnesota-Duluth by two points with two games to play.
Minnesota will complete its regular season next weekend when it hosts rival Wisconsin at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday at Mariucci Arena. The Gophers will then host a first-round playoff series that begins on March 9.
Sheehy Tabbed B1G Second Star
The sophomore leads the Gophers with 20 points and nine goals this year while his 11 assists are tied for the team lead.
Around the Rink: Vinni Lettieri
A native of Excelsior, Minn., Lettieri ranks second on the Gophers with 14 points (six goals, eight assists) in 14 games this season.
Gophers Settle for Big Ten Split
With two goals and an assist in the loss, Tyler Sheehy now leads Minnesota with nine goals and 20 points on the season.