With Kent Patterson in the nets, the Gophers can win without many goals. On Friday, they got a power-play goal from their top center and a breakaway goal from a fourth-line winger.
That was plenty.
The Gophers edged North Dakota 2-0 as Patterson made 24 saves in his team's WCHA home opener at Mariucci Arena before an announced crowd of 10,176. The shutout was Patterson's fifth in nine games; he already has tied Robb Stauber's program record set in 1987-88 for most shutouts in one season.
Nick Bjugstad scored the game-winning goal midway through the second period on a power play. The 6-5 sophomore got an open look from the left hash marks and buried it for his seventh goal of the season.
Tom Serratore gave the Gophers a two-goal lead in the middle of the third period. Nick Larson's pass created the breakaway.
"Just another ho-hum game, huh?" Gophers coach Don Lucia joked. "No, it was the type of game we expected. It was hard-hitting, it was physical [29 penalties]. There was blocked shots, goaltending, guys making plays.
"And there was not a lot of space in the game tonight. The game was settling in. You knew it was going to be a low-scoring game."
The No. 5-ranked Gophers (8-1, 5-0) remained in first place in the WCHA with the victory and buried the defending MacNaughton Cup champions a little deeper in the league standings. No. 15 North Dakota (3-5-1, 1-4) has struggled to score goals much of the season.
The Gophers, averaging an NCAA-best 5.38 goals per game, were held scoreless in the opening period for the first time this season and started the second period on a five-minute penalty kill.
Freshman winger Seth Ambroz received a major penalty and a game disqualification for contact to the head at 30 seconds. The Gophers killed that penalty, making plays repeatedly that had the crowd roaring.
"We were able to do a good job on our kill," Lucia said, "and maybe even for some momentum from our kill because we did not give up a lot of looks on it."
If the penalty kill didn't energize the Gophers, a melee in the middle of the period probably did. It began when Patterson dived out of the crease to cover a puck and North Dakota's Dan Senkbeil crashed into him.
Soon the ice looked like a shot of the main floor at the state high school wrestling meet, with eight players rolling around on the ice, all paired up. Out of the melee, the Gophers got a power play and scored on what was a 5-on-3 1/2.
The half was Sioux captain Mario Lamoureux. A hard point shot by Gophers defenseman Nate Schmidt broke Lamoureux's stick and had him hobbling around in pain.
"[Schmidt] can really hammer the puck -- I think that's what hurt [Lamoureux] and he broke his stick," Bjugstad said. "Fortunately, it ended up being a 3-on-0. If I wouldn't have scored, I would have caught some heat from the guys."
Serratore gave the Gophers a 2-0 lead with his second goal of the season midway through the third period.
"Our team has been doing a great job of letting me see pucks, letting me make the first save," Patterson said. "I am going to have to make a few big saves once in a while."
But not too often.
Friday afternoon, Patterson was named college hockey's National Player of the Month for October. Last night he started building his case to repeat this month.
• Along with Patterson, Kyle Rau also was named the winner of a national award on Friday. While Patterson was named Player of the Month, Rau got Rookie of the Month honors.
Patterson was 7-1 in October with a 1.74 goals-against average and four shutouts. Rau led all freshmen with seven goals and 13 points.
• On Thursday, the Gophers got a major commitment for the 2013-14 season. Taylor Cammarata, a forward for Waterloo of the USHL, said he would accept a scholarship offer. Cammarata scored 71 goals for the under-18 Shattuck-St. Mary's team last season. He was the No. 1 pick in the USHL Futures Draft in April.
• The Gophers' shutout was the first against North Dakota since Oct. 23, 2004, and the first at Mariucci Arena against UND since Dec. 12, 1993.