The Children of Yost were there only in cardboard form, unable to heckle the opponent, and eight of the best young players for the Gophers and Michigan were absent, too, off to duty at the U.S. National Junior team training camp. Still, Tuesday night's series opener between the fourth-ranked Gophers men's hockey team and No. 5 Wolverines at Yost Ice Arena lived up to its billing.
Ben Meyers had a goal and two assists, and Jack LaFontaine made 33 saves as the Gophers defeated the Wolverines 3-1 in Ann Arbor, Mich., and remained undefeated at 7-0 and atop the Big Ten with 21 points. Sampo Ranta and Bryce Brodzinski broke open a tight game with second-period goals for the Gophers, who have yet to trail in any contest this season and will try for their fourth consecutive sweep Wednesday.
"It wasn't a pretty game for us, but we did enough good things that amount to a win, and that's what's important," Gophers coach Bob Motzko said.
Kent Johnson scored a goal and Strauss Mann made 28 saves for Michigan (5-4, 3-4 Big Ten for eight points).
The Gophers were playing without top defensemen Ryan Johnson, Jackson LaCombe and Brock Faber, while the Wolverines were missing four forwards and one defenseman.
After an intense first period in which Michigan started strong, the game turned in Minnesota's favor on a power play in the second, as the Wolverines were called for too many men on the ice. Ranta collected a rebound of Jaxon Nelson's shot off the post and tucked it into the goal for a 1-0 lead at 8 minutes, 30 seconds.
Brodzinski made it 2-0 at 17:54 of the second, capitalizing on steal and great pass by Meyers and sniping a shot over Mann.
"I just started yelling for the puck, and he found me," Brodzinski said of Meyers. " … It's always big when our better players step up in games like this."
Meyers made it 3-0 at 3:42 of the third, patiently waiting for Mann to commit.
"The 'D' was playing me towards the wall, so I just cut back to the middle, and it opened up," Meyers said.
• The Gophers' Scott Reedy was named the Big Ten's first star of the week and LaFontaine the third star.
The Star Tribune did not travel for this game. This article was written using the television broadcast and video interviews before and/or after the game.