MINNEAPOLIS - The phrase "home-ice advantage" finally proved true in the Minnesota/Omaha men's hockey series as the No. 3 Gophers picked up a 3-2 win over the No. 13/14 Mavericks for the first-ever win by the home team in the series' seven-game history. Erik Haula, Nick Bjugstad and Tom Serratore tallied for the Gophers before Adam Wilcox and the Gophers defense held off surge by Omaha in the final 30 minutes of play.
The first team in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association to earn 10 wins this season, Minnesota (10-3-2 overall, 5-3-2 WCHA) got off to a hot start on Friday night as Haula lit the lamp for the seventh time this season just 2:09 into the night. With a slick back hand from one knee, Haula extended his point streak to 10 games with the power-play goal after being set up by Kyle Rau and Mike Reilly. Rau's assist pushed Minnesota's record to a perfect 10-0-0 this season when the sophomore forward notches a point.
Haula, who leads the Gophers in points (19) and assists (12), briefly moved into a tie for the team's goal lead on Friday night before Nick Bjugstad rifled home his Minnesota-best eighth of the year just 58 seconds into the second period - Minnesota's second power-play goal on as many chances in the series finale. Nate Schmidt and Haula would earn assists on the goal while Minnesota would end the night 2-for-7 on the advantage.
Tom Serratore added the eventual game winner less than a minute-and-a-half later at 2:22 of the second for the forward's fourth goal of the season and second game winner. Nate Condon and Christian Isackson earned assists on the goal.
Omaha (9-4-1, 5-2-1) didn't make it easy on the Gophers, scoring a pair of goals in the second half of action to make it a 3-2 game - the fourth-straight game between Minnesota and Omaha that has been decided by a 3-2 score. Andrej Sustr scored at 17:48 of the second period and Johnnie Searfoss made it a one-goal game with an extra-attacker goal at 17:58 of the third.
But the Gophers would hang on, thanks largely to a penalty killing unit that went 4-for-4 on the night and several big saves by Wilcox. The freshman netminder made 18 saves to improve to 9-2-2 in his rookie campaign. Senior defenseman Nate Helgeson also made a game-high four blocks in front of Wilcox.
Minnesota closes of the first half of the season next weekend with a WCHA series at Colorado College.