Gophers hockey completes dominant sweep

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 14, 2012 - 7:22 AM

The Spartans were roughed up for a second night in a row as seven U players scored a goal.

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Gopher Hockey vs. Michigan State, Mariucci Arena, 10/13/12. (left to right) Gopher's Christian Isackson celebrated with Nick Bjugstad after Bjugstad scored a first period goal.

Photo: Bruce Bisping, Star Tribune

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Before Friday night, Michael Shibrowski had played 20 minutes for the Gophers. Before Saturday night, Adam Wilcox hadn't played a minute for the Gophers.

Because of the inexperienced tandem in the University of Minnesota cage, coach Don Lucia has said it's critical that the Gophers play well defensively in order to "ease their transition into college hockey."

Well, the best defense in hockey is puck possession, and on back-to-back nights to complete an opening weekend sweep, the Gophers gave their goalies a smooth initiation by barely letting Michigan State sniff the puck and scoring at will because of it.

On the night a banner was dropped from the Mariucci Arena rafters to honor the school's 13th MacNaughton Cup, the Gophers followed Friday's 5-1 victory over the Spartans with a lopsided, men-against-boys, 7-1 pummeling.

Seven Gophers scored goals, 15 of 18 skaters recorded points and Wilcox, a freshman from South St. Paul, had to make only 10 saves for his first career win.

"They're awfully good," Spartans coach Tom Anastos said. "I thought they were a real good team [last year]. They're way better. They were strong. They were fast. They were skilled."

The triumph was the 599th of Lucia's 26-year career. He'll have a chance to become the ninth coach in college hockey history to reach 600 wins Friday when the Gophers travel to Houghton to face Michigan Tech in the first of consecutive games.

"I've been around a long time. Lot of good players," Lucia said.

In Friday's rout, the Gophers struck three times in the first 13 minutes, 38 seconds. Saturday, they gave Wilcox a three-goal cushion by the 7:41 mark and scored four times in the first.

"We tried to emphasize to come out hard in the first 10 minutes," said center Erik Haula. "To get the 3-0 lead in both games is huge."

Haula, often the "forgotten" Wild prospect despite leading the Gophers in scoring last season, scored 85 seconds in on a great individual effort. Then, Nick Bjugstad and Tom Serratore scored two minutes apart.

In what's got to be one of the easiest goals Bjugstad will ever score, linemate Kyle Rau set him up with what looked like hockey's version of an alley-oop.

Christian Isackson raced into the offensive zone and hit the brakes inside the blue line so he could wait for Rau, who was coming off the bench. Isackson floated over a pass, and Rau drove inward and set up Bjugstad for the tic-tac-toe tap-in.

The goal became Bjugstad's second winning goal in as many nights and sixth of his career.

Ryan Reilly, making his college debut, set up the third goal by flying by a Spartans defender. He threw the puck at the net, and Serratore buried the rebound of a shot by Justin Holl, a defenseman playing mostly at forward Saturday.

Then, with 54 seconds left in the first, Haula set up Ben Marshall with a nifty, no-look, backhanded pass.

The Gophers outshot the Spartans 10-3 in the first, but Wilcox set the tone 55 seconds in when he gloved down Matt Berry's point-blank try.

"It's good both [Shibrowski and Wilcox] got their first wins out of the way," Rau said.

The Gophers continued to roll, with Rau scoring 30 seconds into the second after Isackson won a board battle. Nate Condon wheeled by Hall of Famer Chris Chelios' son, Jake (minus-5), to cap the second-period scoring before freshman Brady Skjei one-timed his first career goal in the third.

Haula, Rau, Isackson, Skjei, Holl and captain Zach Budish had two points apiece.

  • GOPHERS 7, MICHIGAN STATE 1 Up next: 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Michigan Tech • TV: FSN and FSN Plus

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