Late-game heroics led the 14th-ranked Minnesota men's hockey team to a 5-4 overtime road victory over defending national champion Minnesota-Duluth at Amsoil Arena on Friday night. Nate Condon's first goal of the season late in the extra session completed a last-minute comeback win on a night where Gopher goaltender Kent Patterson had a career-high 46 saves.
Sophomore Erik Haula got Minnesota on the board with an early power-play goal. Just 4:55 into the game, Haula took a Nate Schmidt pass and silenced the rowdy home crowd by launching a quick shot through UMD defender Adam Krause's legs and over the shoulder of Bulldog netminder Ken Reiter to make it 1-0.
Almost immediately after Rau's tally, Minnesota came close to allowing its first goal of the season when a Minnesota-Duluth shot took a favorable bounce off UM forward Nico Sacchetti's skate in front. Patterson reacted quickly, however, and reached back to pull the puck off the goal line with a tremendous stick save.
Minnesota-Duluth would, though, begin to rally at the outset of the middle stanza.
UMD's Caleb Herbert cut the Gopher lead in half with an impressive individual effort 5:12 into the period and Travis Oleksuk tied the game with a power-play marker less than two minutes later.
Herbert's goal snapped Patterson's 145:12 scoreless streak to start the season.
Midway through the frame, with UMD's Joe Basaraba in the penalty box for elbowing, the Minnesota power play helped spoil the Bulldogs' new-found momentum by striking for a third time. As the time on the five-on-four minor began to dwindle, Rau stuffed the puck under Reiter from the side of the net to put the Gophers back in the driver's seat.
Before the second period ended, pesky Minnesota-Duluth made it 3-3 when Drew Olson drove a loose puck past Patterson from between the circles.
After 18 minutes of play in the final period without a goal, it seemed that regulation would end with the same score, but Justin Crandall tipped home a puck that was thrown into the goalmouth by David Grun to put the Bulldogs in front.
Facing their first deficit of the season, Minnesota pulled Patterson to get an extra attacker in the final moments of regulation. The move paid off as Haula recorded his second goal of the game to tie the score at four with 44.6 seconds remaining. A Haula pass, intended for Rau on the edge of the crease, redirected off the skate of UMD's Chris Casto and in.
The goal, Haula's fifth of the season, put the Minnesota sophomore in the national lead in points with eight and sent the game into overtime.
In the extra session, Patterson turned away three Bulldog shots, including a great opportunity in close for J.T. Brown with 3:32 left.
Then, with just under a minute to go, Condon had a Taylor Matson feed go into the air after hitting his skate. The sophomore winger proceeded to bat the puck down and in past Reiter to give the Gophers a win in their WCHA opener.
UM is now 10-3-1 in its last 14 games against teams defending an NCAA championship.
Minnesota will look to finish the sweep and start 4-0-0 for the first time since 2001-02 in tomorrow's series finale at 7 p.m. at Amsoil Arena.
Gopher Hockey Live: Wisconsin
Follow the action as the Gophers host Wisconsin on Saturday night at Mariucci Arena.
Lettieri Scores Twice in `U' Loss
The Maroon & Gold close out the Border Battle on Saturday at 7 p.m. contest against Wisconsin at Mariucci Arena (FOX Sports North PLUS, 1500 ESPN).
Traffic Advisory: Busy Weekend on Campus
Fans are advised to plan extra time for travel and parking on campus this Friday and Saturday due to multiple events taking place.