BURLINGTON, VT. — The Gophers' quick-strike ability broke a scoreless tie early in the second period, and they completed a two-game sweep of Vermont with a 3-1 victory on Saturday night.
Tom Serratore and A.J. Michaelson provided the two-goal lightning the Gophers needed to seize command, though the hold was tenuous throughout most of the third period because the Catamounts carved the lead to 2-1 early in the period.
Nate Condon's empty-net goal with 54 seconds left in regulation finally secured the victory for Minnesota (9-2-2) over Vermont (2-7-2).
"It was a more difficult game tonight. I expected it to be," Gophers coach Don Lucia said. "Vermont's play was much more even throughout the game. They had a couple of dips [Friday] that allowed us to get the cushion and the game was pretty much over after the second period.
"We feel good to come in here and get a couple of wins. Vermont had a lot of games in a short period of time [five in nine days] and they were missing some key guys, but I was impressed by the pace and how hard they played all weekend," Lucia said.
After losing 5-1 Friday and then losing again, Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon still said, "I'm very pleased. I told our players that if they play that well as a team, we're going to win a lot of games this year.
"Minnesota is one of the best teams in the country, and I thought we played them right on par tonight. We just had a little bit of a lapse in the second period. Our third period was exceptional. We just couldn't find the equalizer."
Goaltenders -- Vermont's Brody Hoffman in particular -- and penalty killers ruled the scoreless first period. The Gophers had the first opportunity that included 65 seconds of a two-man advantage, and they teed off on Hoffman. The freshman goalie came up with six saves, his teammates blocked four more Gophers shots and a couple of blasts ripped wide.
By period's end, the Gophers were 0-for-3 a man-up and the Catamounts were 0-for-2, extending their power play futility to 14 consecutive chances. Nine of the Gophers' 14 shots were on the power play along with four of Vermont's eight.
"Their goaltender played much better tonight," said Lucia of Hoffman (30 saves). "He made some big saves at key times, which you want from your goaltender. They did a good job on their penalty kill tonight and it was just a hard-fought game all night long."
One night after scoring three second-period goals, the Gophers ruled the middle period again. At 2:49, Serratore steered in the Gophers' first goal. Only 1:10 later, the Gophers' Michaelson ripped a drive between Hoffman's pads for a 2-0 lead.
At 4:15 of the third with both sides down a skater, Vermont's Jacob Fallon swept a rebound behind Adam Wilcox to cut Minnesota's lead to 2-1. The Catamounts kept pestering the Gophers right down to Condon's shot into the vacated Catamount goal.
"We did a pretty good job the last four or five minutes," said Lucia, referring to Vermont's late rally. "We got in trouble a few times, ins and outs at the blue line, maybe trying to make plays on the backhand [that] got picked off."
Sneddon said his team could not capitalize on their opponents' mistakes, but the Gophers could. "They were able to put the puck in the back of the net when we made mistakes almost every time," he said. "They're a very, very high-skilled team, extremely fast. Their transition game both offensively and defensively is very, very good."