The Gophers' 2-0 shutout of North Dakota on Friday was the first time they had blanked the Fighting Sioux since beating them 6-0 on Oct. 23, 2005 in Grand Forks.

It's still too early to make my hotel reservation for the Frozen Four in Tampa, Fla., on April 5-7 -- wouldn't that be nice -- but, barring key injuries, the Gophers sure look like an NCAA tournament team.

 They have scoring, a potent power play, some D-men who can move the puck. They show some grit. Did you see little Kyle Rau slam into a couple Sioux players last night? What a player he is.

And then they have Kent Patterson. He is having a dream season so far. Nobody should wake him up. He is an unruffled guy. Doesn't say anything crazy. Never seems too high or too low. Even after shutting out NoDak 2-0, he seemed just the same as always.

Getting the National Player of the Year award earlier in the day sure didn't jinx him. Yes, everything is going along nicely for the Gophers. They seem to have more depth than most teams.

Tom Serratore, a fourth line winger, gets the puck last night, and jets to the other end. Nobody can catch him and he beats Aaron Dell through the five-hole. What a big goal.

Predictably the Sioux pull their goalie with 1:19 left to try to pressure Patterson. But he knows they have to score twice to tie. He can flub one. Be human and make a mistake. But he doesn't.

After the game Nick Bjugstad -- with a straight face -- says Patterson might be able to get 10 shutouts this season. Crazy talk? Not really when he has five already nine games.

This is a new Patterson for me to cover. I always thought he was a reliable goalie, somebody a team could count on to give up only two, three goals. He never shut anybody out last season. Now he is Mr. Zero.

Wish Coach Lucia would give him a break sometime. Just so everybody could see what Mike Shibrowski can do. Just so Ski could be more relaxed if he has to come in in an emergency.

Don't expect to see Shibrowski on Saturday, though. UND will come at the Gophers hard. They can't afford to get swept and fall 10 points behind the Gophers in the WCHA race. That's a lot of points, even this early.

Wouldn't be surprised if Saturday's game goes into overtime. I predicted a Gophers win and a tie in a post Friday afternoon.  And the maroon and gold has played better in the first game of a series this season.

For sure, the Gophers are a lot more fun to watch than they have been for several seasons.