Both teams came out flying on Saturday night. The Huskies were looking to hand the Gophers their second straight loss and Minnesota wanted to get at least two points out of the weekend. The period started with the Gophers winning the race to most of the loose pucks, out-skating the Huskies early. Minnesota looked like they might be in trouble when assistant captain Jake Hansen was sent to the box for holding at 3:16. The Gophers killed the majority of the penalty before the Huskies’ Jared Festler took down Tom Serratore, earning himself two minutes for interference at 4:56. Like St. Cloud, Minnesota was unable to convert with the man advantage.
Just a few minutes later, the Gophers broke the tie on a three-on-two with the Gophers’ top line leading the charge. Zach Budish fed the puck into the slot for Nick Bjugstad who snapped a quick shot off the crossbar and into the net as he was being hauled down by the St. Cloud defender. The goal came at 8:13 with assists from Budish and Justin Holl.
Less than a minute later, the Gophers had another odd-man rush, this time with Erik Haula and Jake Hansen coming down on the two-on-one. Haula flipped the puck past two defenders to Hansen who stopped and fired a wrister by Ryan Faragher for the Gophers’ second goal of the game at 8:57. Travis Boyd who was playing with the second line tonight earned an assists along with Haula.
The Gophers had a big lead in shots early in the period but the Huskies battled back, getting some solid chances on a powerplay after a Nate Schmidt holding call at 11:16. Minnesota was able to kill the penalty, keeping their two-goal lead. The Maroon and Gold ended the period with about a minute of sustained pressure in the SCSU end, holding a 2-0 edge and a 10-8 advantage in shots.
The second period was a more evenly-matched affair with the Huskies outshooting Minnesota, 13-9. Some of these shots were solid chances including two point-blank tries by St. Cloud’s leading scorer Ben Hanowski. Patterson was calm in the crease, eating up pucks and not giving up easy rebounds. The Gophers’ defense also helped his cause by not allowing many odd-man rushes or open shots like they did on Friday evening.
The second session brought a higher level of intensity as both teams engaged in a number of scrums. As Budish tried to stuff a puck past Faragher he was mauled by a number of Huskies. Bjugstad stepped in and got into a shoving match with 6-foot-4 Kevin Gravel behind the net, garnering coincidental roughing minors at 7:24.
Later in the period, David Eddy was sent to the box again after a scrum with Nate Schmidt in front of the Gophers’ net. Both players were given cross-checking minors at 16:13. On the four-on-four, Faragher mishandled the puck, giving Jake Hansen two shots on net, one hitting the crossbar, almost falling in for a 3-0 Gopher advantage.
The biggest story came at 18:35 as Seth Ambroz came into the Huskies’ zone and was upended by a low check. Ambroz went down and appeared to be clutching at his knee. Play was stopped for the injury and Ambroz had to be helped off the ice as he went straight to the locker-room.
After the play, Ben Marshall got into a shoving match with Eddy. Both players earned five-minute majors for facemasking but Marshall was charged with a cross-checking the call, giving the Huskies the powerplay going into the period break.
The Gophers were able to kill of the penalty early in the third with the help of a break by Nate Condon and Taylor Matson. Condon dished to Matson who put a shot on but Faragher made an incredible kick save to keep the game close. Shortly after the save, Seth Ambroz returned to the ice. After going down with a knee injury, it looked like the forward could have missed more than part of a period.
Just 2:26 into the third, the Huskies’ Joey Holka took an interference penalty, giving the dangerous Gopher powerplay an opportunity to extend their lead. Minnesota did just that at 3:11 as Kyle Rau sent a quick pass to Nate Schmidt on the blue line who faked the slapshot, giving it to Bjugstad near the goal line. The 6-foot-5 sophomore had almost the entire net to shoot at and slammed it home.
Less than 30 seconds later, Mark Alt took a pass from Matson on the blue line, made a nifty move to lose the defender and sent a shot past Faragher’s blocker side. At that point, the Gophers held a 4-0 lead, a comfortable margin for a Minnesota team that has been impressive defensively in the third period.
At 5:21, Brooks Bertsch took a tripping penalty, putting the Gophers back on the powerplay. In a similar play to Bjugstad’s second goal, Schmidt faked a shot and slid the puck to the waiting Bjugstad who sent a slapshot past Faragher, making the score 5-0 in favor of the Gophers. Bjugstad’s goal completed his first hat trick has a Gopher as well as notching his team-best 13th goal and 21st point.
“I don’t know, it’s going in for me I guess,” said Bjugstad. “I had a little puck-luck tonight. I didn’t have that many shots and they were going in. Fortunately, my teammate, Nate Schmidt was making some good plays.”
Head coach Don Lucia was happy to see Bjugstad’s performance.
“[Bjugstad] was huge tonight,” he said. “It was nice to see him respond, because he was probably responsible for a couple of those goals we gave up last night.”
With a five-goal cushion, Minnesota turned their attention to helping Patterson earn the shutout. He had quite a scare halfway through the period as a puck bounced off his shoulder into the crease. Patterson turned, found the puck, and dove on it, preserving the shutout. The Gophers had their hands full when Seth Helgeson took a penalty at 12:54. Despite a couple nice chances, Minnesota killed another penalty.
The rest of the game the Gophers played solid defense, not letting Patterson face many tough shots, giving the senior goaltender his sixth shutout of the season despite 30 shots from the Huskies. With the shutout, Patterson passed Gopher-great Robb Stauber for the most shutouts in a season by a Gopher.
Lucia stressed the significance of Patterson’s accomplishment.
“It’s not often a guy gets a hat trick and kind of gets upstaged, but tonight that’s the case, with Kent being able to put his name in the record books,” he said.
After the series split with St. Cloud, Minnesota improved to 11-3-0 on the year and 8-2-0 in the conference.
The Gophers will travel to East Lansing to face Michigan State next weekend.