The Gophers were held to only 19 shots – three off a season low – b ut the made the most of them.
Especially freshman Kyle Rau. He scored two power play goals as the Gophers edged Nebraska Omaha 3-2 on Saturday at the CenturyLink Center to sweep their WCHA series.
The Gophers (23-11-1, 19-7-0) remained alone in first place with the victory, their fourth in a row.
Nebraska Omaha (14-14-6, 11-10-5) was swept in a conference series for the first time this season even though the Mavericks struck first. Brent Gwidt scored from the edge of the crease six minutes into the game.
The counter-punch came quickly, albeit from an unlikely source. Defenseman Mark Alt of the Gophers got the puck in deep and scored a four-on-four goal on a nifty backhander 42 seconds later, at precisely 6:46.
The 1-1 tie lasted only until the next Gophers power play. Rau stuffed in a puck from near the right post at 9:20. It was his 15th goal of the season.
Defenseman Nate Schmidt had assists on both goals, giving him 30 helpers this season.
UNO coach Dean Blais apparently didn’t like what he was seeing. So after Rau’s goal, he switched goalies. Freshman Ryan Massa, who had 29 saves on Friday, was replaced by senior John Faulkner.
Rau had a near-goal and a real goal in the middle period to put the Gophers ahead 3-1. His second goal of the came on another power play. Erik Haula, cruising down the left side, spotted Rau on the back door and Faulkner was helpless.
Early in the period, Rau nearly had a short-handed goal. He made a bee-line to the net and a UNO defenseman fell down, trying to stop him. The Mavericks player dislodged the net and both he and the puck went past the goal line. The referees took a long look at the play and waved off the goal.
What hurt the Gophers more – quite literally – was an undisclosed injury to Nick Bjugstad sometime during the middle period. He was not on the bench for the final period.
He was probably hurt when UNO defenseman Tony Turgeon, who is 6-4, 232, checked Bjugstad into the boards at 8:07. Turgeon got a boarding penalty. Bjugstad continued to play that period. In fact, he was on the ice when Rau scored.
UNO cut the Gophers’ lead to3-2 on Matt White’s goal midway through the third period on a short-handed breakaway.
Patterson was solid after that, stopping 27 shots.
Notes: This was the 1,000th game for Don Lucia of the Gophers as a college head coach. His record going into it was 591-325-83. He started at Alaska-Fairbanks, moved on to Colorado College and then, in 1999-2000, to the Gophers.