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Gophers freshman Nick Bjugstad just missed on this point-blank shot on goal against Minnesota State Mankato goalie Austin Lee.

Marlin Levison, Dml - Star Tribune

GOPHERS 3, MINNESOTA STATE MANKATO 2

Up next: 7 p.m. Friday vs. Michigan Tech • Mariucci Arena • TV: FSN (1500ESPN)

Gophers pick up pace in sweep of Mavs

  • Article by: ROMAN AUGUSTOVIZ
  • Star Tribune
  • December 4, 2011 - 9:28 AM

Three goals in the opening period Saturday were just enough for the Gophers.

Minnesota State Mankato rallied for one goal in the second period and one in the third but still lost 3-2 at Mariucci Arena before an announced crowd of 9,710.

Freshman Kyle Rau's 11th goal of the season, late in the first period, turned out be his fifth game-winner.

By sweeping the Mavericks -- Friday's score was 4-2 -- the Gophers (13-4-1, 10-2-0 WCHA) remained in first place in the WCHA race with 20 points, one ahead of surging Minnesota Duluth.

Minnesota State (3-12-1, 2-9-1) had a dangerous-looking three-on-one rush with 40 seconds left in the game, but defenseman Justin Holl broke it up.

"One of their players tried to saucer a pass, and [the puck] hit the shaft of my stick," Holl said, "and I knocked it away."

Whew.

Goalie Kent Patterson stopped 26 shots for the Gophers, Austin Lee 37 for the Mavericks.

The Gophers wanted a faster pace in this second game, and it sure had it in the opening period. They scored three nicely spaced-out goals -- early, middle and late -- on 15 shots.

"[The Gophers] are a good hockey team," Mavericks coach Troy Jutting said. "They have good players who make smart plays and keep you pushed to the outside and attack the puck."

Jutting said his struggling team, 0-6-1 in its past seven games, committed a dumb early penalty and lost too many one-on-one battles the first 20 minutes.

"It was obviously important for us to get off to a great start, which we did," Gophers coach Don Lucia said. "We made some nice plays."

Freshman Seth Ambroz of the Gophers scored in the third minute with three seconds left on a power play. Camped in front of the net, he deflected a pass past Lee. It was his third goal of the season, but his first since he scored twice in the season opener Oct. 7.

"Hopefully, I can keep them coming," Ambroz said. "I like those little greasy goals."

Captain Taylor Matson gave the Gophers a 2-0 lead from the left circle at 8:24. Nate Condon, from behind the net, dumped the puck in front, and it squirted directly to Matson, who scored his second goal in two nights.

"We had a lot more jump in our step," Matson said. "It was just a result of wanting it more tonight and more intensity."

Rau's goal, at 18:31, came on an easy tap-in. Defenseman Mark Alt, at the right point, found Rau alone by post on the opposite side.

The Gophers, now 8-1-0 at home, wasted several good chances in the second period to expand their three-goal lead. Instead, Zach Lehrke of the Mavericks put in a rebound on a power play in the third minute.

Early in the third period, on a five-on-three power play, Lehrke scored again from the top of the left circle, and the Mavericks were within 3-2.

But the Mavericks had just three other shots in the period. They finished 2-for-9 on the power play, the Gophers 1-for-5.

Twenty-two penalties were called, 13 on the home team.

"We got into penalty problems, which allowed them to get back in the game," Lucia said, "but I liked to way we closed out the third period."

There was a lot worth liking. Patterson had to make just one close-range shot in the final period, and Holl stopped the last rush.

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