BEMIDJI – The hot hand of forward Sam Warning extends well beyond a couple of feet from the net. Warning’s slapshot near the top of the right circle late in the second period gave the Gophers the lead for good in a 6-3 victory over Bemidji State on Friday night at the Sanford Center.
The goal produced a 3-2 lead and was one of Warning’s three points. He also had two assists.
“Sam had a big goal to put us up 3-2 heading into the third. And then [the same line] scoring on the first shot of the third period was huge,” Gophers coach Don Lucia said. “We were moving our feet and making some plays and had some good looks tonight.”
Warning gave credit to his line for creating the scoring opportunity.
“In practice we worked on a lot of ground game and cycle the puck and get to the net. [Hudson] Fasching made a good play in the middle and [Kyle] Rau was driving the net, so it worked.”
Senior co-captain Nate Condon’s first goal of the season built a cushion the Gophers lacked most of the night. Bemidji State pulled within one, at 4-3 just 3:34 into the third period, but 52 seconds later Condon changed that with some fancy maneuvering.
Freshman linemate Justin Kloos’ set up Condon, who found a hole just inside the edge of the post for the a 5-3 lead.
Connor Reilly added another insurance goal when Bemidji State pulled its goaltender in the final minutes of the game.
Four of the past seven meetings between the two teams have been determined by one goal, and two went into overtime.
“It’s great when you get any kind of cushion in a game like that,” Condon said. “Bemidji is a team you really have to battle to get goals against.”
All six of the Gophers’ goals were scored by different players. And Hudson Fasching and Reilly each had a goal and assisted on one.
Despite the strong finish, it wasn’t a pleasant start for the Gophers. Ninety seconds into the game they were caught with too many players on the ice. Just over a minute later Warning was called for tripping.
The miscues left the Gophers in a 5-on-3 disadvantage for 13 seconds, and that was all the time Bemidji State needed to strike. The Beavers got off a shot as the two-man advantage expired, and Danny Mattson knocked in the rebound.
Bemidji State found itself in a similar three-man situation later in the period, and Ben Marshall’s power-play goal put the Gophers ahead 2-1 to close out the first period.
In the middle period, Cory Ward continued to cause problems for the Gophers. He muscled his way to the front of the goal throughout the night and tied the score 2-2 at 5:37 of the second period. It was his fourth goal against the Gophers dating back to last season.
Ward’s goal was the first 5-on-5 goal the Gophers gave up this season. The Beavers’ two power-play goals were scored within the first 20 seconds of penalties on Minnesota.
“Mentally we made a few mistakes, including too many penalties [early], and it put us a couple men down,” Lucia said. “To the guys credit they found their game.”