The Gophers handed No. 1-ranked, defending NCAA champ Boston College its most lopsided loss since Feb. 24, 1996, tonight with an 8-1 trouncing.
That night against New Hampshire, the Eagles lost 10-0. There have been a handful of six-goal losses since, but none by more than six.
Read the game story for many of the details on www.startribune.com/gophers, but Nick Bjugstad scored a career-high two goals and two assists, Kyle Rau scored two goals and an assist, captain Zach Budish tied a career-high with three assists and Adam Wilcox made a career-high 32 saves and nearly had a second shutout in two nights.
The conference rook was named tournament MVP and continues to impress coach Don Lucia. Last night against Air Force, Lucia was anxious to see if his timing would be off after three weeks of holiday break. Tonight, Lucia was anxious to see how Wilcox would handle the test of the No. 1 team in the nation and terrific offensive juggernaut.
As usual, Wilcox passed with flying colors. He even assisted on Sam Warning’s shorthanded breakaway tally. Wilcox is eighth in the nation with a 1.63 goals against average. He has a .927 save percentage. His 12 wins are tied for second in the country and his .794 win percentage ranks second.
“It’s nice to be in a little groove,” he said (a little?).
Warning also had two points, Nate Condon, Seth Ambroz and Nate “Quote Machine” Schmidt also scored goals and 12 players had points. The Gophers scored four times on the power play.
Potentially bad news though. Leading scorer Erik Haula, who had two assists, leads the Gophers with 26 points and has points in 14 in a row (two points from 100), left the ice writhing in pain after taking a nasty slash on I believe Rau’s third-period goal. He was seen with ice packs on both hands after the game and didn’t accept his all-tournament team award postgame on the ice.
Lucia said he got “dinged” and would be evaluated by doctors in the next few days. He will provide an update mid-week.
Also on the all-Gopher/all-tournament team was Bjugstad, Rau, Schmidt, Jake Parenteau and Wilcox.
Now, before you start to think that such an impressive win automatically means they should hand the Gophers the national championship now, know this: the Eagles were without leading scorer Johnny Gaudreau and two injured defensemen, Patch Alber, who may have torn his meniscus in a pregame soccer game Saturday night, and Isaac MacLeod, who has a shoulder injury.
So Lucia said you kinda have to “asterisk” this win, but he still was proud of the all-around performance by his team and happy with the weekend as a whole (includes a 4-0 win over Air Force).
Also, in the Thursday availability, Lucia said by name that Bjugstad, Rau and Condon needed to contribute more offensively. All three had big weekends.
“They know it,” Lucia said. “They had not scored at the level that I think they’re capable of, not because they haven’t been trying. It had to happen. When you start putting some pucks away and getting some points, you feel better about yourself and walk a little taller. Nothing’s worse for an offensive player when you’re struggling to score.
“It just weighs down on you. We had good contributions from a lot of guys this weekend and that’s what we have to have from here on out.”
Bjugstad said he wasn’t happy with his first half. He now leads the team with 10 goals. He said he spent the holiday break shooting a lot of pucks and trying to refocus.
“He’s a big, strong player,” Boston College coach Jerry York said of Bjugstad. “I think it’ll benefit him by staying another year in college. I thought that was clearly a good choice for him. Chris Kreider did the same thing the year before. It helped him. There’s no rush getting in the pros. [Bjugstad’s] getting better and better.”
What’s cool is Lucia has signed up Boston College and Northeasten to four-year commitments, so Gophers fans will get to see B.C. starting next year.
Next up for the Gophers: Jan. 8 against No. 3 Notre Dame, who happens to have a pretty good freshman named Mario Lucia.
OK, that’s it for me. I’ll update you with the new rankings Monday. The NHL and NHLPA are expected to meet in person Monday as well.
Also, I will be filling in for Common from 12-3 Wednesday on KFAN (100.3-FM). One of my guests may be Don Lucia.
More from Star Tribune
More from Russo's Rants
The Caps are the best team in the NHL, and goalie Braden Holtby has been the winningest goalie in the league. So the Wild would be facing quite a challenge, even if it was playing well.
Wild coach Mike Yeo, whose team faces Washington on Thursday, knows the pressure is on and he's been spending a lot of time meeting with general manager Chuck Fletcher. "That's the life of a coach in the NHL," Yeo said.
Thomas Vanek's overtime mistake proved costly as the Wild fell for a sixth straight game and 11th time in 12 games.
The two skilled forwards, scratched Saturday in St. Louis, return against the Dallas Stars. Darcy Kuemper is in goal.
Spurgeon is doubtful for Tuesday's game with Dallas at Xcel Energy Center after suffering a bad bruise in Saturday's loss. Coach Mike Yeo expects Koivu to play.