Minnesota buries defending champ Boston College

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 31, 2012 - 3:58 PM

Top-ranked Boston College suffered its worst loss in almost 17 years in a Frozen Four rematch.

Now we know what the Gophers men's hockey team is capable of.

It took half a season of up-and-down, often unbalanced play to discover it, but Sunday night in winning their 13th Mariucci Classic by making mincemeat of defending national champion Boston College, the Gophers treated their fans to the type of inspired, strong hockey they can put together.

In handing the No. 1 team in the country an astonishing 8-1 drubbing -- Boston College's most lopsided defeat in almost 17 years -- the fourth-ranked Gophers looked every bit the national title contender. On their big ice surface, the Gophers skated circles around the team that ended their 2011-12 season in the Frozen Four.

"Humble pie for us," Boston College coach Jerry York said one night after becoming the winningest NCAA coach in history. "Alabama-Huntsville is clearly a different team than Minnesota. It was a whole new level here tonight."

The Eagles (12-3-1), who have made 10 Frozen Fours since 1998, hadn't lost by more than six goals since a 10-0 loss to New Hampshire on Feb. 24, 1996.

"It was just one of those nights that went our way," Gophers coach Don Lucia said. "We've all been in games like that where it just starts to break, pucks start to go in, and all of a sudden the avalanche comes.

"I'm proud of our guys. It's an outstanding team we beat. But it's one night."

For the first time in a long time, Florida Panthers first-round pick Nick Bjugstad looked dominant. The Blaine native scored a career-high four points -- two goals and two assists -- and came close to a hat trick several times.

"It's nice to see Bjugstad with a smile on his face," Lucia said.

Kyle Rau scored two goals and had an assist, and Sam Warning had a shorthanded goal and assist. The Gophers scored four power-play goals.

And, of course, freshman Adam Wilcox (12-2-3), making his 16th consecutive start in goal, was simply superb with a career-high 32 saves. The puck-mover even assisted on Warning's breakaway goal. It took a late 5-on-3 goal by Steven Whitney to spoil Wilcox's second shutout bid in two nights, but he was appropriately named tournament MVP.

"I know the whole hockey world was watching," Wilcox said. "When they look at it and see 'Gophers, 8-1,' it puts our name on the board."

It wasn't all good news for the 13-3-3 Gophers. Erik Haula, who leads the team with 26 points and has points in 14 in a row, left the ice screaming in pain with what appeared to be a hand injury early in the third period. The Gophers don't play next until Jan. 8, but it didn't look good. Lucia expects a Haula update midweek.

It was quite a statement game for the Gophers, although to be fair, Eagles leading scorer Johnny Gaudreau was at the world junior championships and the Eagles were without two injured defensemen.

"You asterisk it because they were real young [on defense], but to our credit, we're a better team when Bjugstad scores and Rau scores and Condon scores," said Lucia. "Those are a few of the guys that had to start to elevate their play for us to go to another level as a team."

Bjugstad now leads with 10 goals, but expectations are lofty for the 20-year-old former Mr. Minnesota Hockey.

"It was a little slow start for me the first half, so it's good to get a new fresh start," said Bjugstad. "I took advantage of the time over the break and shot a lot of pucks and kind of refocused."

  • MARIUCCI CLASSIC GOPHERS 8, BOSTON COLLEGE 1

    Up next: 7 p.m. Jan. 8 vs. Notre Dame • Mariucci Arena • TV: FSN Plus (1500-AM)

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