Following a penalty-filled affair Friday, both teams came out flying in the second game of the series, looking for big hits and playing physical. After some tense minutes in the first, Nick Bjugstad broke the tie with a rebound goal past North Dakota goaltender Aaron Dell at 7:09. Zach Budish and Justin Holl got the assists on the goal.
Freshman Seth Ambroz took a questionable interference call at 9:38 of the first. The Sioux quickly tied the score at one just eight seconds into their man advantage on a snipe by Minnesota native Brock Nelson. Nelson found a small opening over Kent Patterson’s shoulder at 9:46 after assists from Dillon Simpson and Corban Knight.
The Gophers had two powerplay opportunities late in the period to try and regain the lead after Stephane Pattyn went to the box at 14:33 and Derek Forbort took an interference penalty at 16:47. Minnesota was unable to capitalize and headed to the locker room tied at one goal apiece.
The second period continued the penalty trend of North Dakota with two key Sioux, Danny Kristo and Andrew MacWilliams taking penalties in the first half of the middle session, giving the Gophers about a minute of 5-on-3 advantage. Minnesota looked strong on the powerplay until Jake Hansen nudged defensemen Ben Blood over Dell, enough of a disturbance to earn an interference call, negating the Gopher powerplay.
Just seconds after killing off the Kristo penalty, freshman Rocco Grimaldi came down the edge, made one defender miss and snapped a shot over Patterson’s shoulder, not even giving the outstanding Minnesota goalie a chance to react. With the Sioux up 2-1 at 8:39, the Gophers slowed noticeably, allowing North Dakota to gain momentum.
Later in the period, 5-foot-8 Sam Warning plowed through Sioux star Danny Kristo, earning a charging penalty and two minutes in the box. The crowd loved the hit but the Gophers found themselves a man short again. Minnesota successfully killed off the penalty and headed into the second intermission down by a goal but holding a 31-11 edge in shots on net.
Despite a slow start to the third, the Gophers’ fourth line came through for the second night in a row with winger Nick Larson scoring on a one-timer past Dell at 13:56 of the third. Freshman Travis Boyd dug the puck out the corner and fed it to Larson in the slot who slammed it home, tying the score at two goals.
The Minnesota crowd went wild and from that point on were back in the game. North Dakota, though, showed they had plenty of fight left, forcing Kent Patterson to make two incredible saves on odd-man rushes for the Sioux. Both North Dakota chances could easily have been goals if not for the steady saves of the senior goaltender.
With under a minute remaining, it appeared the two rivals were on their way to overtime. The Gophers’ top line of Bjugstad, Budish and Kyle Rau had other plans. Nick Bjugstad brought the puck out of the corner and flipped it toward the net. Defender Ben Blood tipped the puck in the air which Budish grabbed and attempted to stuff in. After a juicy rebound, goal-scorer Kyle Rau put the puck past Dell, giving the Gophers a 3-2 lead with just 46 second left in the game. With the crowd going crazy, Minnesota didn’t allow any serious chances in the remaining moments, completing the sweep of the visiting Sioux.
It was the first regular season sweep of North Dakota since 2006, and the first home sweep of the Sioux since 1996. The Gophers improved to 9-1-0 on the season and a perfect 6-0-0 in the WCHA. North Dakota, on the other hand, fell to 3-6-1 on the year and 1-5 in conference play.
The Gophers will travel to Madison to take on the Wisconsin Badgers next weekend in another important rivalry series.