The second-ranked Minnesota men's hockey team bounced back from its first home conference loss of the season on Friday by downing Michigan Tech 6-2 at Mariucci Arena on Saturday night. The Gophers entered the third period up by one goal, but posted four more in the final frame to head into the Holiday Break on a winning note.
UM, which opened the scoring on Friday but lost for just the second time in 14 games when scoring first in 2011-12, got on the board first again on Saturday.
Freshman Kyle Rau banged home a Mark Alt rebound 7:37 into the first period to give the Gophers their first lead of the night.
Just under 10 minutes later, the Huskies responded with their first of two power-play goals in the contest when Jordan Baker deposited his fourth goal of the season to make it 1-1.
In the middle frame with MTU defenseman Daniel Sova in the box for cross-checking Gopher forward Nick Bjugstad, Jake Hansen deflected home an Erik Haula blast from the point to put Minnesota back in front.
After freshman defenseman Blake Thompson gave Michigan Tech a five-minute power play with a contact-to-the-head penalty for hitting the Huskies' David Johnstone with 2:42 left in the second, MTU capitalized early in final stanza to knot the game.
Riley Sweeny dished a pass to Sova, who one-timed a shot over the left shoulder of Minnesota goaltender Kent Patterson.
The tied score was short-lived, however, as the Gophers regained the lead just 2:04 later.
Sophomore defenseman Nate Schmidt recorded his first of three assists in the period by giving a one-time feed to Alt at the top of the left circle. Alt unleashed a cannon of a shot that beat an outstretched MTU netminder Josh Robinson to put the Gophers ahead once again.
Schmidt got on the scoresheet for a second time one second before the midway point of the period by throwing the puck on goal that forced Robinson to kick out a bad rebound, allowing Bjugstad to convert on an easy tap-in.
The goal was Bjugstad's team-leading 16th of the season and snapped a four-game goalless drought--his longest of the season.
Assistant captain Joe Miller, who was making his 2011-12 debut, cushioned the Gophers' lead just over two minutes later by burying an Alt rebound. Alt's assist on the play gave him five points on the weekend and three on the night.
Hansen finished the scoring with 1:46 to play with his second tally of the game on a five-on-three man advantage.
Tempers flared toward the end of the game, resulting in 55 penalty minutes by the two teams combined in the third period, but the Gophers came away with the four-goal win.
In addition to improving to 14-5-1 on the year and maintaining a first-place tie in the WCHA with Minnesota Duluth at 11-3-0, Minnesota upped its record on Saturdays to 8-0-1 and avoided being swept at home in the regular season for the first time since Oct. 15 and 16, 2010.
The Gophers, who have now played 20 games before Christmas for the first time since 1990-91, are off for 20 days. They will return to the ice against Niagara in the first game of the Mariucci Classic on Dec. 30. UM will face either Princeton or Northeastern the following night.
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A native of International Falls, Minn., Blais was a four-year letter winner for the Maroon & Gold from 1970-1973 – recording 139 points (56 goals, 83 assists) in 124 career games.
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5/22/2018 - M. Ice Hockey
The 98th season of Gopher Hockey will see the Maroon & Gold take the ice for the first time under new head coach Bob Motzko.