The Minnesota men's hockey team began its 2011-12 season with a bang, blanking Atlantic Hockey foe Sacred Heart 9-0 at Mariucci Arena on Friday night. Senior goaltender Kent Patterson recorded his first career shutout and 15 of the 18 Gopher skaters recorded points in the victory.
The Gophers got on the board quickly when highly-touted freshman Kyle Rau collected a Zach Budish miss and slammed home his first collegiate goal 56 seconds into the game.
Minnesota continued its strong start by taking a commanding 15-1 lead in shots, but Sacred Heart goaltender Steven Legatto kept the Pioneers within reach by making some crucial saves.
UM got into penalty trouble in the second half of the opening frame, but Patterson was able to bail his team out by turning away nine shots, allowing the Gophers maintain a one-goal advantage heading into the second.
Legatto seemed to have the Gopher offense stumped by robbing Budish and freshman Sam Warning on back-door one-timers, but newly-appointed assistant captain Jake Hansen broke through 5:26 into the second period. After receiving a pass in the neutral zone from Erik Haula, Hansen streaked in to the SHU zone along the right wing and blasted a slapshot past Legatto on the stick side to make it 2-0.
Sophomore Nick Bjugstad opened the floodgates just under ten minutes later by beating Legatto upstairs with a backhanded shot, despite being tripped by Sacred Heart's Jordan Ciccarello.
Ciccarello went to the box immediately following the goal and the Pioneers killed off the penalty, but Haula made it 4-0 three seconds after the man-advantage expired when an errant SHU shot sparked a three-on-one opportunity for the Golden Gophers.
Minnesota tacked on one more goal before the period ended when Warning roofed a shot in tight for his first career point at 18:37.
After outshooting the Pioneers 19-5 in the middle stanza, the Gophers kept their foot on the gas in the final period.
Bjugstad notched his second goal of the game less than a minute into the frame, converting on a wraparound chance and Tom Serratore made it 7-0 with 11:25 to go, deflecting a Blake Thompson rip from the blueline through Legatto.
Through 56:15 of play, Minnesota had come up empty on all five of its power-play chances, but another freshman potted his first goal to stop that trend.
Ambroz then went on to cap off the scoring with under a minute remaining. Legatto stopped winger Nate Condon twice on shots from the right faceoff circle, but Ambroz was there to swat a third rebound into the net under the sprawling Sacred Heart netminder.
Down the other end of the rink, Patterson finished the game with 20 saves, recording the team's first shutout since Feb. 19, 2010 when the Gophers topped Colorado College 3-0. UM held its opening night opponent off the board for the first time since Oct. 18, 1985, when the team downed Michigan Tech by an identical 3-0 score.
Minnesota will attempt to complete a home sweep of the Pioneers on Saturday night at 7.