With less than five minutes to play in the game, the Gophers (15-3-3, 7-3-3)found themselves trailing UAA (3-12-4, 1-11-3) 3-2 when Anchorage forward Tyler Currier took a questionable five-minute checking from behind major penalty, giving the Gophers the man advantage for the remainder of the third period.
Just under a minute later, Nate Schmidt slid the puck to Nick Bjugstad who scored his 12th of the year on a rocket one-timer past goalie Rob Gunderson, knotting the score at three goals apiece with 3:11 to play.
“The guys said on the bench, ‘Both [powerplay] units get a goal, let’s go home,” said Don Lucia about the powerplay opportunity.
The Gophers did exactly that, scoring with :51 seconds remaining in the game on a Ben Marshall slapshot to take a 4-3 lead, sinking the dreams of the upset-minded Seawolves.
“The powerplay was given an opportunity to win the game and each unit scored a goal to win the game,” said Lucia.
Minnesota had to battle back multiple times throughout the game due to a slow start and a UAA goal at 5:17 of the first.
“It was a slow start for us,” said Bjugstad. “We always emphasize a ten minute game and the first ten minutes we came out really flat.”
Trailing 1-0 at the end of the first, the Gophers were able to tie it up on a Kyle Rau tipped powerplay goal off a hard Sam Warning shot at 2:10 of the second.
Minnesota was able to take its first lead of the game in the second period as Bjugstad roofed a wrist shot on a two-on-one break, giving the Gophers a 2-1 advantage.
Despite numerous chances, Minnesota was unable to put the Seawolves away, allowing the visiting team to hang around in a one-goal game. UAA capitalized on the close contest, scoring a goal by Daniel Naslund who snuck a puck past Adam Wilcox to tie the game at 2-2 midway through the third period.
The Seawolves continued to skate hard, leading to an odd-man rush late in the game. Scott Allen capitalized, scoring the go-ahead goal off a sloppy possession for the Gophers.
“We’ve got to clean up some defensive errors we had, especially our line, me and Kyle [Rau], and Christian [Isackson],” said Bjugstad of the defensive breakdowns.
Despite failing behind for the second time in the game, the Gophers didn’t give up, playing tough immediately following the UAA goal. The hard work paid off as Currier took the major penalty in his own end, leading to the Minnesota powerplay.
With Alaska Anchorage up 3-2, the penalty was tough to swallow for the Seawolves.
“I don’t think it’s a five [minute major],” said Alaska Anchorage head coach Dave Shyiak. “I think the way the game’s going right now, I think they call fives and tens too easily. Was it a penalty? Yes, but I don’t think it’s a five. I’ll take the two minute penalty but I don’t think it was a warranted five.”
The call was a gift for the Gophers who were able to score twice, notching their 15th victory of the season by a score of 4-3.
“We found a way to win,” said Marshall. “That’s what the coaches stress at the end of the game. There are games during the season that you have to find a way and that’s what we did.”
The Seawolves will be out for revenge tomorrow night in the rematch as the Gophers look for a WCHA series sweep. Game time is set for 7:00 p.m. CT and will be broadcast on FOX Sports North.