Bjugstad: Gophers winning because everyone pitching in

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  • April 1, 2012 - 12:23 PM

Boston College, which has won 17 games in a row, is the Gophers next opponent on Thursday in the second semifinal of the Frozen Four in Tampa.

"We are looking forward to playing [the Eagles]," Bjugstad said. "They are a fast-paced team. A lot of good players. It should be a great game.

"Our main goal at the start of the season was to win a national championship. You can't take that for granted. Obviously, BC is the No. 1 seed going in. We are really going to have to prepare this week and buckle down."

Bjugstad said the Gophers had extra motivation to beat North Dakota int he West Regional final last Sunday. "We had a lot of pent-up energy and we were a littlle bitter. It was nice getting them in that game. They are a good team, but we really brought it that game I felt.

"The momentum is good. Obviously, BC has a lot of momentum with them, too. The momentum after beating BU and NoDak was huge for us. We will be ready to go."

Bjugstad said the main reason the Gophers are winning in the postseason is the secondary scoring they are getting. ""Guys are coming up big here at the end of the season," he said. "[Travis] Boyd gets his first goal against North Dakota in the regional final. You can't really stage a  first goal better than that.

"Our defensemen are really pitching in offensively as well. Everyone is playing well from Kent [Patterson, the goalie] to our fourth line. That's the key to winning a national championship I think."


Lee Smith, the Eden Prairie High School hockey coach, has had all four Rau brothers in his program. Matt, Chad, Curt and Kyle, now with the Gophers.

"All were extremely intelligent," he said, "with a high hockey IQ. Matt and Curt were defensemen. Kyle and Chad were both forwards. What made Kyle so great was he could make everyone around him better. He ended up with a lot more assists.  Chad was an incredible finisher, but it was important to have someone that could get Chad the puck or create.

"But if Chad could shoot,  he would score. Kyle shoots, but he also has an uncappy ability to set people up."

Kyle is second on the Gophers with 18 goals -- behind sophomore centers Nick Bjugstad with 25 and Erik Haula with 20.

He is third in assists with 25.


"It doesn’t suprise me," Smith said, asked about Rau's success with the Gophers, "because of how hard he works, how much he cares and he always is -- his preparation before a game is incredible. He understands his role and does his job. He takes great pride on the offensive side and the defensive side."

Smith said Rau's switch from center to left wing as a Gopher and being paired with 6-3 Zach Budish and 6-5 Nick Bjugstad also have helped him.

He does not have to go into corners so much, Smith said, but he is still good at taking the puck out of zone on his stick with speed. "It's fun to watch," Smith said.

"Any time somone leaves high school and goes straight to DIvision I, there is a growing curve," Smith said. "The schedule and big games he played through his career helped Kyle. That jump was not such a steep curve for him.

"And with linemates like Bjugstad and Budish, it's fun to watch them as a line," Smith said. "Kyle is little, but he never plays small. He finishes checks."

His mental approach to hockey also helps him. "He knows he will have such an impact in every game," Smith said, "but he blocks that out and just plays. Some players get nervous, but he was able to play like no one I ever had."

Kyle Rau's high school teams won two state championships and three conference titles, Smith said, and he also played in bantam and pee wee state tournaments.


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