HOUGHTON, MICH. - After rolling over Michigan State last weekend, the No. 1 Gophers were looking more of the same in their WCHA opener on the road at Michigan Tech.
But the Huskies struck for three goals in the first period en route to a 5-3 victory Friday night at the MacInnes Student Ice Arena.
Huskies center Dennis Rix set up what would stand as the game-winning goal when, on a three-on-two break, he pushed the puck forward to winger Chad Pietila, who wasted little time picking the top corner at 6 minutes, 22 seconds of the second period.
The goal made it 4-2 and ended Gophers goaltender Mike Shibrowski's night early, after 26 minutes. He made 10 saves.
"I thought we had a poor start," Gophers coach Don Lucia said. "We had a few bobbles at the blue line that cost us."
The game opened with bodies flying both up and down the ice and into the boards as both teams looked to establish a physical tone.
The Huskies struck first just 3:32 into the game, but with Gophers defenseman Seth Helgeson and Huskies defenseman Daniel Sova both in the penalty box, the Gophers evened the score when winger Nate Condon fired a shot that goalie Pheonix Copley had trouble handling. The rebound kicked out to a crashing Nate Schmidt, and the defenseman wasted no time burying the puck behind Copley at 9:13.
"If someone is not having a good game, then everyone else has to pick up the slack," Condon said. "It was my line that had a good game tonight, but it could [be] any one of us on any night."
After the Gophers goal, the Huskies (2-1-0, 1-0-0 WCHA) settled in and began to force the game at the Minnesota defense. Late in the first period, they struck twice in a 22-second span and took a two-goal lead into the first intermission.
Looking for a stronger start to the second period, the Gophers got a lift when center Nick Bjugstad took a cross-ice pass from defenseman Ben Marshall at the right point and picked the top corner blocker side on Copley at 2:51.
The Gophers (2-1-0, 0-1-0 WCHA) used the momentum of the goal to control play for a couple of minutes before the Huskies got their feet back underneath them. Copley made a key save on winger Kyle Rau a little more than a minute later that kept the lead intact.
Copley again came up big for the Huskies after winger Christian Isackson received a pass in the slot on a Gophers power play.
Adam Wilcox, who replaced Shibrowski early in the second period, matched a couple of Copley's better saves with key stops of his own. He finished with 11 saves.
"We talked about, coming in, that we would learn a lot more about our goalies this weekend," Lucia said. "I thought Adam did a good job."
Trailing by three late in the third, the Gophers cut the lead to two on the power play when winger Travis Boyd received a pass from Isackson and buried a one-timer behind Copley at 17:50. Condon picked up his second assist of the night on the goal.
Lucia pulled Wilcox with 1:56 remaining. The Gophers had several chances to score with the extra skater, but each was thwarted by Copley.