Potent Gophers power play leaves its mark

  • Article by: DAN LIEN , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 29, 2011 - 1:22 AM

The special teams clicked against Anchorage, which bumped the Gophers from last season's playoffs.

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Gophers center Erik Haula

Photo: Bruce Bisping, Star Tribune

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ANCHORAGE, ALASKA - The eighth-ranked Gophers flew to Alaska sporting the nation's No. 1 power play and hoped to use it to settle a score.

Friday night in a 5-0 win, Minnesota did just that, and ended a three-game losing streak to Alaska Anchorage.

The Gophers were ousted by the Seawolves during the first round of the WCHA playoffs last season in a two-game sweep at Mariucci Arena. The losses ended Minnesota's season and dashed NCAA tournament hopes.

"We talked a lot about getting these guys back in our locker room," forward Erik Haula said. "You guys have no idea what it felt like last year to get swept at home by Alaska. ... We just wanted to come out and just carry this game,"

The victory kept Minnesota (6-1, 3-0) undefeated in WCHA play this season.

Goals by Haula, Jake Hansen and Mark Alt paced the Gophers to a 3-0 lead midway through Friday's game.

Haula converted Zach Budish's pass with a burst up the slot for a 1-0 lead at 18:01 of the opening period.

Haula, a sophomore from Finland, capitalized on a turnover from fellow Scandinavian Daniel Naslund of Sweden. As Naslund circled in his own zone, Budish and Kyle Rau converged, forcing a turnover.

Budish spotted Haula streaking up the slot, and Haula deposited his sixth goal of the season.

A power-play goal at 11:46 of the second period gave the Gophers a 2-0 lead. Jade Portwood boarded Budish behind the Gophers' net, putting Minnesota's power play on the ice. The Gophers entered the game converting on 36.4 percent of their man advantages.

The Gophers spent the first 40 seconds of the power play in the Alaska zone, until Nick Bjugstad scored on a slapshot from the left point, his sixth goal of the season.

Seawolves goaltender Chris Kamal, who was 3-0 against the Gophers last season with two shutouts, could not stop the Gophers on this night.

Minnesota used the Olympic-size ice at Sullivan Arena to its advantage. The Gophers spread out the Anchorage defense, outshooting the Seawolves 10-6 in the opening period.

Justin Holl was stopped on a breakaway at 13:29 by Kamal, who was unbeaten in two starts this season before Friday.

Holl opened the third period scoring just 30 seconds in when his one-timer from the right point off a setup from Budish beat Kamal clean for a 4-0 lead.

Anchorage's best scoring chance in the opening period came when sophomore center Matt Bailey took a pass and split the Gophers defense. Goalie Kent Patterson moved left with Bailey and smothered the shot just as Bailey released the puck.

Patterson, who has started all seven of Minnesota's games, came in with a 2.16 goals-against average. He withstood a 14-shot second period, including a four-shot flurry to end the period.

Patterson, who shut out Vermont last Friday night, was seeking his fourth bagel in seven games. The senior from Plymouth entered the season without a shutout.

"I can't even remember a streak where I have had shutouts [this frequently] in juniors or high school," Patterson said. "It's always been one or two goals. A lot of it has to do with our team this year. We were blocking shots, guys were backchecking. Usually when I can see the shot, I can make the right play."

Haula struck at 4:41 of the third with another power-play goal. His bomb from the right point off a pass from Bjugstad beat Kamal stick side high for a 5-0 lead.

The teams meet again Saturday night.

Notes

• Kamal played junior hockey for the Alexandria Blizzard of the NAHL two seasons ago.

• Forward Joe Miller and defenseman Chris Student made the trip to Alaska but did not dress Friday.

  • GOPHERS 5, ALASKA ANCHORAGE 0

    Up next: 10 p.m. today • Sullivan Arena, Anchorage, Alaska • No TV (1500ESPN-AM)

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