Friday Game Update
Nate Condon scored with :57 remaining in overtime, swatting the puck out of midair past goaltender Kenny Reiter while standing alone in front of the goalcrease, as the Gophers rallied to defeat defending NCAA champion Minnesota Duluth 5-4 in a Western Collegiate Hockey Association game Friday night at Amsoil Arena.
Duluth led 4-3 until Erik Haula scored with :53 left in regulation, with goaltender Kent Patterson pulled for an extra attacker.
Haula and freshman Kyle Rau scored two goals apiece for the the Gophers (3-0).
Freshman Caleb Herbert had a goal and assist for Duluth (1-2).
The Gophers and Bulldogs meet again at 7:07 p.m. Saturday in Duluth.
The Gophers are focused and mentally and physically prepared for this weekend's Western Collegiate Hockey Association series against defending NCAA champion Minnesota Duluth at Amsoil Arena, redshirt sophomore forward Zach Budish said following a team morning skate today at the Bulldogs' new $88 million barn.
"Last weekend was great (9-0 and 6-0 home wins over Sacred Heart), but we're hungry for some WCHA action," said Budish, who said he is 100-percent healthy after suffering a season-ending knee injury in game seven a year ago. "Our focus is to come out of here with four points, against the defending champs."
The Gophers (2-0) and Bulldogs (1-1) meet at 7:07 p.m. tonight and Saturday at Amsoil (6,726), in the league openers for both teams. USA Today has Minnesota ranked 14th, Duluth 19th. Fox Sports North will broadcast both games this weekend.
"It should be a fast-paced series, and a good one for the fans," said Gophers senior goaltender Kent Patterson (right), who collected both shutouts last weekend, a program feat last accomplished in 1936. "Last weekend was good for our club, especially for the new guys, but this is a whole new level."
Minnesota leads the all-time series 129-72-15, but the Gophers have won just four of the last 10 meetings. The teams split four games last season, in home-and-home series, with each team picking up a win and two ties.
Last weekend, Duluth split at home against No. 1-ranked Notre Dame, winning 4-3 Friday and losing 5-3 Saturday. The Bulldogs are led by two-time All-American senior center Jack Connolly, who has ridiculous hands, and sophomore forward J.T. Brown, the Most Outstanding Player at the 2011 Frozen Four and one of college hockey's most-explosive skaters.
"It should be a dramatic series, with Duluth coming off the national championship and playing with some pizzaz, and the Gophers hoping to get back to the top," said former Gophers coach Doug Woog.
What to Expect
. Look for the Gophers to take the physical play to the Bulldogs, especially early and in the Duluth defensive zone. Forwards Budish, Nick Bjugstad and Jake Hansen, in particular, are Gophers' big bodies who could force the Bulldogs' inexperienced defense to turn the puck over.
. Duluth could have trouble scoring, since only Connolly, Brown, Mike Seidel and Travis Oleksuk are pure scorers. And Patterson is hot, hot, hot. "I'm seeing the puck well, and I'm fighting for pucks through screens," Patterson said today.
. Bulldogs goaltender Kenny Reiter, who is expected to start tonight, had a strong run in the post-season a year ago, but allowed three goals on 17 shots Friday. Sophomore Aaron Crandall surrendered five goals on 23 shots, for a .783 saves percent, in Saturday's loss.
Gophers-Bulldogs Series Notes
. The Gophers are 9-3-1 in games against defending national champions.
. Gophers senior forward Jake Hansen and Alaska-Anchorage's Mickey Spencer lead the nation in scoring with six points apiece.
. Six of the seven Gophers freshmen picked up their first collegiate point last weekend, including forward Sam Warning who had two goals and two assists. Seth Ambroz had two goals, Kyle Rau a goal and an assist and Blake Thompson two assists. Only Christian Isackson, who only played in Saturday's game, was held pointless.
. Scott Sandelin is 193-201-52 (.491) in his first 12 seasons at Duluth, including 22-plus win seasons each of the last three years.
. Duluth is unbeaten in 28 of its last 31 overtime games (13-3-15), including 7-2-6 a year ago.