MINNEAPOLIS- For the second straight Friday, Ben Marshall scored a game-winning goal in the final seconds of a period. Only this time the Gophers defensemen was aided by three additional goals in the final twenty minutes to turn what was a close game into a lopsided result.
Minnesota (17-3-3, 9-3-3 WCHA) scored five goals by five different players Friday night and Adam Wilcox made 24 saves as the Golden Gophers defeated sixth-ranked North Dakota (13-7-3, 8-4-3 WCHA) and extended their unbeaten streak to nine game.
North Dakota got on the board first following a scoreless first period. Sophomore forward Michael Parks found a way to get the puck over Wilcox while on their second powerplay of the night. Their lead, however, lasted a total of 2:32 as Minnesota forward Zach Budish found himself the benefactor of a Sam Warning pass and sniped it past UND goalie Clarke Saunders.
Then it was Marshall, who scored the game-winning goal with under a minute left against Alaska-Anchorage, with another. The sophomore defenseman pinched in on the power play to slam home a puck lying in traffic with 5.8 seconds left. That goal proved to be the difference as Nate Schmidt, Nate Condon and Erik Haula (suiting up as a wing after missing 3 games with an “upper body injury”) each scored in the third period to give the Gophers comfort room.
What I saw:
-For as big as the Minnesota-North Dakota rivalry is, both teams were slow out of the gate. It was almost as if each saw Friday’s contest as the first round of a title fight and tried to feel each other out. Halfway through the first period each team only had one shot on goal and a couple minutes later each had the same number of roughing minors (two) as shots.
-North Dakota’s top line of Mitch MacMillan, Corban Knight and Danny Kristo had plenty of opportunities Friday and did a good job getting bodies in front of the net. There was a stretch in the second period where it felt like it was a matter of when, not if, UND would score. Along with Michael Parks (who had the goal and an odd-man rush during that stretch) showed why they are so dangerous.
-Outside of a cross-checking penalty in the second, Brady Skjei played his best game as a Gopher. I noticed him making more good plays in the first period than anyone else and Skjei even had a series where he out-skated 4 North Dakota players. The freshman has responded well since being cut from Team USA’s World Junior squad.
What I thought:
-Although Marshall scored the goal that put the game away, Nate Condon deserves credit for changing the tide in Minnesota’s favor. The junior forward scored a shorthanded goal in the third period but before that helped kill a Seth Helgeson cross-checking penalty with a couple chances.
-North Dakota-Minnesota is a series full of physicality and Friday’s night game lived up to it. There were also signs once Haula scored the empty-netter that Saturday’s game is going to be a doozy. It started with Helgeson and Andrew MacWilliam tying up following the goal and picked up to a point where every player on the ice was taking that extra step to lay out their opponent. Things cooled off in the final minute but not before Stephane Pattyn was given a 10-minute misconduct and escorted off the ice following an attempt to go at the Gopher bench.
-Wilcox played beyond his age. In a series which has in the past has eaten freshmen goalies alive, the Gopher goalie was poised and let talented forwards like Knight and Rocco Grimaldi come to him. While lesser goalies would go down on Grimaldi’s backhand shot, Wilcox stood his ground.
What they said:
-Erik Haula on how he felt: “Let’s put it this way…I’ve never felt better after this win.”
-Don Lucia on the first period: “I thought that when the game started it was kind of tentative on both sides. It was cautious. Nobody wanted to make a mistake.”
-Nate Condon on his shorthanded goal: “There was no doubt that I was going to the net. There was no way I was pulling up at that point. I was surpised (Joe Gleason) didn’t get more of a body on me. I just slipped by him a little bit.
-Dave Hakstol: “It was a real close hockey game through 39 minutes. I thought we made a mistake on a line change at the end of the second period that led to the upcoming power play. They capitalized. It was a tough goal for us to give up with a few seconds left.”
-UND defenseman Andrew MacWilliam on Wilcox: “He’s a good goalie. He made the saves when he needed to and he kept them out late in the game.”
-Attendance was announced at 10,318 and is the third-largest crowd in Mariucci Arena history.
-North Dakota center Corban Knight extended his point streak to 18 games with an assist on Park’s goal.
-Erik Haula reached 100 points in his 97th game as a Gopher Friday.
-The two teams play again tomorrow at 5 p.m. CT as part of Hockey Day Minnesota. It’s also the final regular season meeting until at least 2016-2017.