It's early, but it still has to be exciting for Gophers hockey fans to see their team in first place in the WCHA standings. It has been a while.
After the Gophers swept Alaska Anchorage 5-0 and 3-1 in the 49th state, here is how the top of the standings look:
1, Gophers 4-0-0 8 points
2. Michigan Tech 3-2-1 7
3. Nebraska Omaha 3-1-0 6
Wisconsin 3-3-0 6
And way down there:
9. North Dakota 1-3-0 2
On Saturday, the Gophers' power play was zero for three (with five shots), and they gave up a power play goal but they still won the special teams battle. Nate Condon and Kyle Rau both scored unassisted, short-handed goals. Rau's goal came in the last minute, shooting at an empty net from the red line.
Zach Budish had the other Gophers' goal.
Erik Haula, although pointless on Saturday, continues to lead the nation in points (7-10-17) while Rau is tied for 14th (7-6--13) and Nick Bjugstad (6-6--12) is tied for 18th. Rau has more points than any other freshman.
Goalie Kent Patterson is tied for fourth in winning percentage (7-1-0, .875), is eighth in save percentage (.939) and 13th in goals-against average (1.74).
The Gophers are averaging 5.38 goals per game -- they are the only NCAA team whose average is five goals or more; defensively their 1.75 goals-against average is tied for fifth.
Their power play (35.9 percent) is first if you dismiss Cornell (one for one); their penalty kill (87.5) is 13th.
In a postgame radio interview on Saturday, Gophers coach Don Lucia said he was very happy having four wins in four WCHA road games and then joked about returning home next weekend.
""We have games against somebody -- I forget who," he said.
Later, he said North Dakota lost a lot of outstanding players but .. "Hey, when it is North Dakota and Minnesota, you don't have to say any more than that."
GOALIE THE DIFFERENCE
UAA coach Dave Shyiak, in a postgame interview on live streaming, said Gophers goalie Kent Patterson came up with some big saves. "But if we play like we did in the second and third periods, we will be OK," Shyiak said.
The Gophers outshot the Seawolves 20-4 in the first period and took a 1-0 lead.
"The first period we were really good," Lucia said, "and had a lot of scoring chances. We probably should have been up by more."
UAA finished one for four on power plays with 10 shots.
* Lucia said Rau made a great play on his unassisted goal. "He ate a puck," Lucia said, referring to Rau's block of a shot. And then Rau skated hard to get the puck and shot it. At the time, the Seawolves had pulled their goalie and had a six on four advantage.
"There's nobody more I'd want to have the puck on his stick at the red line than Kyle," Lucia said.
The Gophers, after having 16 more shots on net after the opening period, finished with a 31-27 edge.
"They [the Gophers] have a bit more quickness than teams we have faced so far," said UAA freshman Sam Mellor, who scored his team's lone goal. "It was a weak backhander. It trickled in luckily."