Roman Augustoviz spends Minnesota's winters covering college hockey, specifically the Gophers, and other University of Minnesota sports. During the summer, he writes about the WNBA's Minnesota Lynx, with a dose of U sports sprinkled in. Follow him on Twitter @RomanStrib.
The under-18 national team is now 5-6-1 overall after its 2-2 overtime tie with the Gophers on Friday at Mariucci.
It is only 0-4-2 against college teams, tying with Notre Dame 1-1 and the Gophers, losing to Wisconsin 5-0, North Dakota 6-4, Bemidji State 4-3 and Cornell 6-2.
Wonder if Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves sent a thank you card to the national team. He should have. It has allowed suspended Badgers freshman Nic Kerdiles a chance to play this weekend.
Kerdiles, out 10 games with the Badgers for violating amateur rules, skated against the Gophers on Friday. He had three shots on goal but was a minus-1. Nice way to serve an NCAA suspension, playing at Mariucci with the team he played for last season against another WCHA team.
Otherwise, Kerdiles would have been in Madison while the Badgers were playing at Minnesota Duluth this weekend.
Vinni Letteiri and Tyler Motte scored goals for the U18 U.S. team in the first period. Lettieri was a plus-2 for the game and had four shots. Only one other player, Will Butcher, was a plus-2. Motte led his team in shots on goal with six.
Tom Serratore and Nick Bjugstad had goals for the 'U' in the middle period. The three assists on the two goals went to Christian Horn, Justin Holl and Nate Condon.
The Gophers outshot the U.S. team 41-29, but really had a big shot advantage in only the second period, 20-5. In the first, the U had a 10-9 edge and 5-4 in overtime, while the U.S. team outshot the Gophers 11-5 in the third period.
On the power play, the Gophers were 1 for 5 with 12 shots, the U.S. team 0 for 4 with six shots.
Penalties: U.S. team six for 23 minutes, the Gophers five for 10 minutes.
The Gophers did well in the circles, too, winning 44 of 65 face-offs. Leading the way for the U were its top three centers,. Erik Haula was 13-6 on face-offs, Bjugstad 10-5 and Travis Boyd 7-3.
"It was a bizarre game," Boston University coach Jack Parker said after the Terriers lost to the Gophers 7-3 on Saturday at the Xcel Energy Center in the West Regional semifinals. "At times, both teams had good territorial advantages and both teams looked OK. I thought Minnesota had the best of it as the night progressed.
"I really liked the Minnesota goaltender," Parker said "I thought he had a nice night for them."
Kent Patterson of the Gophers made 31 saves and gave up only one even-strength goal -- after a bad turnover by defenseman Jake Parenteau.
In the second period, Evan Rodrigues had two close-range chance for BU on the power play and Patterson robbed him both times.
"We know they had a real good power play and we gave them too many opportunities," Parker said.
The Gophers scored the game's first goal on a power play -- Kyle Rau at 5:55 of the first period -- and the game-winner on a power play -- Jake Hansen at 15:38 of the second period. But they were only two for eight and only had eight shots with a man-advantage. The power play hardly looked scary.
"There were other times when we did a good job killing our penalties," Parker said. "I told my team I was proud of them because of what they went through and how they worked. Even tonight, when things were not going their way, they kept fighting. We gave up some goals we would like to have back."
What BU went through was losing three keys players. Two left before the holidays, one because of sexual assault, the other, Wild prospect Charlie Coyle, to play major junior hockey in Quebec. The third left a month ago, again because of sexual assault accusations.
"There were a lot of good efforts on this team," said Parker, at the end of his 39th season at BU. "It was a good run for an under-manned club. This was a team that stuck together. In the second half of the season when everyone throughtwe would take a big dive, we played pretty well. The better team won [Saturday]."
Because of the player losses, Parker said that he had to use seven players who came to BU as walk-ons.
BU tied for second place in Hockey East, but finished the season 2-4 in its last six games.
PARKER: OFFICIALS GOOD
There were 18 penalties called in the BU-Gophers game, nine on both teams. Penalty minutes were29 minutes for BU because Justin Courtnall of the Terriers got a five minute major for contact to the head late in the second period and a 10-minute game misconduct.
The Gophers were two-for-eight on the power play, BU two-for-seven.
"I thought the game was well-refereed, to tell you the truth," Parker said. "I did not think there were too many penalties that were not penalties. The emotions sometimes takes kids into the penalty box.
"We took three penalties in the offensive zone [Saturday] -- 180 feet away from your net, you should not be taking penalties. It was something that was a problem with us all year long.."
A crew from the ECAC worked the game. The referees were Chip McDonald and Peter Feola, the linesmen Rich Patry and Glen Cooke.
The crew from the first game on Saturday also was from the ECAC. Either one of those crews could work Sunday's game between two WCHA teams, North Dakota and the Gophers.
* "We have a saying when we are recruiting kids, 'Make sure you talk to the parents,' " Parker said, "because kids don't grow up like their neighbors. If you don't like the parents, you probably are not going to like the kid. If you met Mr. and Mrs. Connolly, you know why Jack and Chris are the type of kids they are."
Chris Connolly of Duluth was BU's captain. His brother, Jack, is the captain of UMD's team which plays Boston College on Sunday for a spot in the Frozen Four.
* Parker said the Xcel in St. Paul was one of the great places in the country to have the NCAA tournament. "we have had success in this town in the past in their tournament," Parker said. "We didn't have the success we would like [Saturday], but I'd come back here any day of the week."
"Winning the MacNaughton Cup was huge for us," said senior winger Jake Hansen, who scored two goals in the Gophers' 7-3 victory over Boston University on Saturday in the West Regional semifinals at the Xcel Energy Center. "But we just didn't want to be that senior class to go through the 'U' and not make it to the NCAA. We played hard."
* Freshman Kyle Rau found a loose puck in the crease, behind BU's goalie and put it in for the Gophers' first goal. "More than half of my goals have been from there," he said. "I just look fro the open ice because obviously I am a smaller guy. I will just get knocked down and outmuscled, so I just have to find the open ice around the net. Hopefully I will get a couple like that [Sunday]."
Rau's goal was his 18th of the season.He has a team-high nine on power plays. He also had three assists and four points, both season highs. He was named the first star of the game, Hansen the second star and defenseman Nate Schmidt, who had two assists, the third star.
THE DON SAYS
On playing BU: As soon as the draw came out, when you see Boston University, I think everybody -- our coaches and players -- understand what a great program they have [with] outstanding coaches and player. It made it that much easier to get ready for the game. The guys were obviously hungry to play. ... Any time we got punched, we were able to punch back.
Gophers in NCAA
33 trips, second all-time behind Michigan's 35
51-33 record, 51 is first among most wins
5-3 record vs. Boston University
Attendance at the first session at three regionals:
West, St. Paul: 9,386
East, Bridgeport, Conn. 5,090
Midwest, Green Bay, Wis., 3,465
Northeast, Worcester, Mass., unavailable
Gophers coach Don Lucia tried to put as positive a spin as he could on his team's 6-3 loss to North Dakota on Friday in the Final Five semifinals.
"We had a very good first period and we didn't give up anything," Lucia said, "and it continued on into the second. One of the things that hurt us, even through the second period and even into the third when we were up 3-1, is we left a lot of plays on the rink. We had plenty of chances to go up four or five.
"Right after we made it three, [UND goalie Aaron] Dell made a couple of big saves. on some rebounds and got a pad save on [Gophers center Nick] Bjugstad. Even after the second [period], I thought we certainly left some plays on the rink after two, that maybe we could have widened the lead a little bit. But I felt good, the only goal they scored [ in the first two periods] went off one of our guys.
"And then I thought we lost the line of scrimmage mentality," Lucia said. "That is something we really talked about during the week of preparation and certainly heading into the game [Friday]. How important it was to win the line of scrimmage battle and around the blue paint. And we did that early and we scored a couple of goals around their blue paint. And then all of a sudden we started to stand around for whatever reason and watch and not pick up sticks and make some of those plays that you need to play.
"Maybe our inexperience in this environment showed a little bit tonight," Lucia said.
The Gophers were playing in the Final Five for the first time in three years. They last won a game in the conference tournament in 2008.
"The guys, for whatever reason, did not continue to get up and be aggressive," Lucia said. "We got behind their defensemen and continued to press and press and press. We were playing to win."
And then UND rallied.
"Sometimes you get in that situation," Lucia said. "And all of a sudden you are playing not to lose. That does not work. You have to continue to play to win.
"It is a great lesson and I congratulate North Dakota. They continued to come like they did during the course of the game. We talked about, they have the championship belt for a reason. [The Fighting Sioux have won the Broadmoor Trophy the past two years.] They clearly got the momentum that back half of the game, especially the third period. ... We couldn't get it back going again."
Lucia said he tried to inspire his players during a a timeout with the score 3-3. "We talked to the guys about continuing to play," he said. "But they didn't play. All of a sudden you get on your heels -- we just couldn't get going again for whatever reason. And we have been such a good third period team.
"We have been very good defensively all year. What a great teaching tool we have for this upcoming week."
Assistant captains Jack Hansen and Zach Budish scored the Gophers' second and third goals. They also represented the team at the postgame news conference.
"We came out and I thought that was some of the best hockey we played in the first period, in the first half of the game," Hansen said. "We played fast, we played physical. We were the most physical team. And then we jumped out to that 3-0 lead.
"We relaxed with it. We had other chances, but we couldn't add on to that lead. Then they got that first one. I believe it went off a defenseman into the net. Then I think we were just scared of losing. We weren't playing like we were in the first half of the game. They just took over."
Hansen expects the Gophers to recover from the loss well.
"We definitely can bounce back, obviously," he said. "I loved the way we played the first half of the game. We dominated. We were just talking about shots. I think the shots were 23-8 or something like that. We were controlling the game. We just have to watch video and learn from our mistakes so we don't have this happen again."
"They battled back well, I have to give them credit," Budish said. "Like Jake said, they scored their first goal. It was off a shin pad or whatever. We had a 3-1 lead going into the third period and they dominated us in the period pretty much.
"It was a fun atmosphere," Budish said. "It was pretty much a packed house. More Gopher fans, but North Dakota fans were loud and both sides were going back and forth. There was a lot of atmosphere. It was the kind of atmosphere you like to play in as a player and we are excited for next weekend, too."
* UND's comeback stunning: "It hurt, it's tough," Hansen said, when asked his thoughts on UND tying the score. "Just the fact that you are up 3-0 and all of a sudden now it is 3-3. It definitely kills you a little bit, but now you have to keep fighting. We didn't have that in us. I don't know what it was. It is more shell-shock than anything, that you can't believe they just tied this game."
THE DON SAYS
* On Kent Patterson giving up six goals: "Let's be honest, it wasn't his greatest game. I am confident enough that he will rebound. We talked about you got to be good this time of the year. ... Once they got a couple, he started chasing the puck a little bit. It is going to happen. He has been pretty good about, if he has an off night that he comes back and usually plays pretty good. I am confident he will come back and play well next week."
* On forgetting this loss: "We are disappointed. We wanted to be here for the weekend. You want to play in the championship game [Friday] night. The way we were playing, I thought, we looked good, we looked sharp, we are moving the puck. We were playing physical and we were winning the line of scrimmage. And then it stopped."
* On bouncing back: "You have to be able to take a punch. We punched them, they came back. We got punched and all of a sudden the guys got tentative for whatever reason. And I was really surprised by that. We have been so good all year long in the third period. That more than anything else was shocking to me. ... We have done so well at closing [other teams] out, but it didn't happen tonight. We move on."
The seven goals the Gophers scored in beating Alaska Anchorage on Saturday were the most for them since a 9-0 victory over Sacred Heart in the season opener on Oct. 7.
The four goals the Gophers scored in the third period against UAA was a feat they have accomplished only three times before this season. They had four goals in the second and third periods in their season opener and four goals in the third period of a 6-2 victory over Michigan Tech on Dec. 10.
The Gophers have outscored opponents 51-18 in the third period, or nearly three to one.
In the second period, the Gophers edge is a slim 45-41. They also dominate the first period, 41-21, or almost two to one.
SWEEP WAS NEEDED
The Gophers went into their first-round WCHA series with Alaska Anchorage tied for sixth in the PairWise ratings, actually they were seventh, based on the RPI tie-breaker. So what did a sweep of UAA do? They dropped to eighth.
The Seawolves finished last in the WCHA, so beating them did not do much for the Gophers' RPI (strength of schedule). If UAA had swept the U, the Gophers probably would have fallen close to the bubble on the PairWise. Normally only the top 13, 14 teams in the PairWise ratings make the national tournament, most of them with at-large bids.
SPECIAL TEAMS STRUGGLE
The Gophers' special teams struggled on Saturday despite the Gophers' 7-3 romp over UAA. The power plays was one-for-7 and had only nine shots on net. The penalty kill gave up three power play goals to the Seawolves in four chances.
Nationally, the GOphers are still seventh on the power play at 22.5 percent, but they have fallen to 31st on the penalty kill at 81.5 percent.
Looking at the offense and defense as a whole, the Gophers are third nationally in both. They are scoring 3.56 goals per game, and giving up 2.10 goals. So the team's scoring margin is 1.46, second best in the country.
Senior goalie Kent Patterson is second in minutes played, with 2,317.31. He is 12th nationally with a 2.12 goals-against average.
His save percentage of .914 is 33rd. He is 10th with a .679 winning percentage based on a 26-12-1 mark. He is tied for the lead in most shutouts with seven.
In scoring, five Gophers are among the national leaders:
* Center Nick Bjugstad is third in goals with 24.
* Defenseman Nate Schmidt is tied for fourth with 33 assists.
* Kyle Rau is tied for first in goals scored by a freshman with 16 ... He is tied for second among rookies in points per game at 1.000, tied for third in game-winning goals with six, and is fourth in total points with 36.
* Erik Haula, with a six-point weekend, is tied for 13th in points with 44.
* Nate Condon is tied for second in short-handed goals with four.
* I went a disappointing 10-6 last week in picking WCHA playoff games. Condsidering there were only 13 games, how is that possible? I picked some series to go three that ended in games.
I picked two upsets, Wisconsin over Denver -- the Pios won in three -- and Nebraska Omaha over St. Cloud State -- the Huskies swept. I contemplated picked Michigan Tech over Colorado College, but didn't and, of couse, Tech swept.
Got the Gophers and UMD sweeps right, but my crystal ball was pretty cloudy. Won't stop me from forecasting again later this week.
* The Gophers' comeback win from two goals down against Alaska Anchorage on Saturday was only the second time this season they have made up such a deficit. On Oct. 15 at UMD, the Gophers trailed 2-0 in the first period and won 5-4.
THREE STARS LEADERS
After every Gophers' home game, the three stars are named. Can you guess who won the competition after the regular season? Actually it was a tie. Erik Haula had a strong final weekend with four goals and two assists in a sweep of Alaska Anchorage to catch Nick Bjugstad.
The player named first star gets five points, the second star three and the third star one. The leaders:
1st 2nd 3rd
Erik Haula 4 2 -- 26
Nick Bjugstad 2 4 4 26
Jake Hansen 3 2 -- 21
Kent Patterson 2 1 2 15
Nate Schmidt 1 1 4 12
Kyle Rau 1 1 3 11
Zach Budish 1 2 -- 11
Nine other players have between eight points and one.
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