MINNEAPOLIS- After defeating Boston College and Notre Dame, two top-5 teams, in a span of 9 days by a combined 12-2 score, Friday’s WCHA game against Alaska-Anchorage (3-12-4, 1-11-3 WCHA) was an easier match-up on paper for the top-ranked Gophers.
But of course that forgets one little detail: hockey is not played on paper.
After Seawolves sophomore Scott Allen gave his team a 3-2 lead with 5:47 remaining in regulation, Minnesota (15-3-3, 7-3-3 WCHA) scored power play goals by Nick Bjugstad, his second of the game, and Ben Marshall, with 50.8 seconds left, to defeat Alaska-Anchorage 4-3. Both goals occurred during a questionable five minute major to Tyler Currier for checking Gopher captain Zach Budish from behind with 4:08 remaining in regulation.
It was the second time Minnesota had to come back. Earlier, Quinn Sproule scored on Adam Wilcox, who made 17 saves, 5:17 into Friday’s game and UAA was the first team to hold a lead on the Gophers since November 30th. The Seawolves controlled play for much of the first 10 minutes, however, a power play goal by Kyle Rau and even-strength shot by Bjugstad gave the Gophers a 2-1 lead after two periods. That set the stage for Alaska-Anchorage forwards Daniel Naslund and Allen to score 4 minuets apart in the third period before Minnesota’s drastic comeback.
What I saw:
-No one told Minnesota what time the game started because the Gophers got off to a slow start. Besides scoring the game’s first goal, the Seawolves had the first seven shots on net.
-In addition to offense, Alaska-Anchorage was at their best on defense in the first period. They were able to get four guys in the slot and seal it off from a Gopher offense that was bent on moving the puck close to the net. Unfortunately for the Seawolves, Minnesota began to pick them apart in the second once they erased the 1-0 lead.
-Minnesota’s power play went 4-5 in the Friday night game in Anchorage and it showed up again tonight. Both power play units shined in the 3-6 effort and it was fitting that both units scored during the final power play.
What I thought:
-Although they eventually started playing catch-up and players like Sam Warning were backchecking hard, few players were moving their feet early on. It paid off in the second period and following the Allen goal (where the first shift following it saw Minnesota pester Gunderson with shots) but Anchorage took advantage of when the Gophers stopped moving their feet.
-The major is going to be debated long after this game ends. Seeing it live, I thought it was a good call. I also think Alaska-Anchorage is not going to take this as a moral victory despite having the #1 team in country on the ropes in their home arena.
-Nick Bjugstad mentioned after the game that he was trying to play more physical. While he isn’t Seth Helgeson (who had a half-dozen bone-crushing hits) yet, it has shown. Regardless, getting two goals from the junior helps the team out more.
What they said:
-Alaska-Anchorage head coach Dave Shyiak on the major to Currier: “I just think the way the game’s going right now they’re calling fives and tens too easily.”
-Minnesota head coach Don Lucia: “We were given an opportunity on the major. ….Their confidence didn’t budge because the power play looked good all night and we said on the bench, ‘both units get a goal.’ And that’s what happened, Bjugstad had a nice one timer and Ben Marshall had a nice one timer.
-More Lucia: “It’s more fun when you don’t (have to come back) from my standpoint. Give (Anchorage) a lot of credit for how well, how hard they played coming in and their kids competed from start to finish. That’s a credit to their players and coaches.
-Marshall on his goal: “It was a good feeling. The last goal I had was against Anchorage too.”
-Nick Bjugstad: “That was definitely a monkey off the back.”
What they didn’t say:
-Dave Shyiak came out to talk to the media and then ran towards the exits.
What else you should know:
-Attendance was announced as 9,625
-Don Lucia mentioned that Adam Wilcox will start again tomorrow night.
-Minnesota and Alaska-Anchorage play again tomorrow night at 7 p.m. CT. The game will be broadcast on Fox Sports North.