MINNEAPOLIS — After watching a two-goal lead disappear in the blink of an eye Friday, the top-ranked Gophers men’s hockey team made sure the same thing didn’t happen in Sunday’s series finale against Boston College.
Minnesota kept the foot on the gas after scoring two early goals Sunday, racing out to a four-goal lead before eventually topping the Eagles 6-1 at Mariucci Arena to improve to 5-0-1 on the young season. With the convincing win, the Gophers looked the part of a No. 1 team.
“We were tested plenty playing tonight,” said Gophers head coach Don Lucia. “It was a good October for us. . . . We close the chapter on October. You put those wins in the bank that help you come the end and hopefully we continue to grow as a team.”
Senior co-captain Nate Condon kicked off the Gophers’ scoring party just 4:14 into the game as his backhand shot beat Eagles goalie Brian Billett for a 1-0 lead. Less than a minute later, Seth Ambroz made it a 2-0 game when he collected his own rebound and buried the puck for his second goal of the year.
This was the point in Friday’s game during which the Gophers got a bit too comfortable and allowed Boston College to storm back with three straight unanswered goals. They learned their lesson the hard way and made sure history didn’t repeat itself Sunday.
“I feel like Friday night we started off 2-0 and kind of thought, ‘This might be a little easier than we thought,'” said Ambroz. “Knowing Boston College, that’s never the case. Tonight, we really focused on once we got that lead, staying with our game plan, not sitting back or anything like that.”
Sophomore defenseman Mike Reilly gave Minnesota a 3-0 cushion after skating through the slot and firing past Billett for his third goal of the year at the 10:16 mark of the first period. It was another defenseman, sophomore Brady Skjei, who followed Reilly’s goal with yet another Gophers tally.
Skjei’s top-shelf goal made it a 4-0 game after one period, a deficit that proved too much even for the high-powered Eagles offense. The Gophers needed just seven shots to score their first four goals, an indication that Sunday was Minnesota’s day.
“When you look at the game, the four-goal first period by Minnesota was clearly the catalyst to the game,” said Boston College head coach Jerry York. “They earned it. Four quality chances in the first period, and they cashed in on all four.”
If there was any doubt after Boston College cut the lead to 4-1 in the second, Minnesota squashed it in the third. BC’s Evan Richardson got the Eagles on the board early in the second period, but the Gophers added two more goals by Michael Brodzinski and Jake Bischoff to seal the victory.
“You get a 4-0 lead, you should feel pretty good,” Lucia said. “But we also know that BC’s got some offensive ability, so I don’t know if I felt really safe until we got that fifth goal in the third period. I think the game was closer than the score.”
In all, Minnesota got goals from six different players, including four of the six from defensemen. While the Gophers’ top line didn’t find the net Sunday, there were plenty of other goals to go around. Minnesota showed its depth and balance in Sunday’s six-goal outburst.
As entertaining as Friday’s 3-3 tie and shootout were between top-ranked Minnesota and No. 5 Boston College, Sunday’s affair left something to be desired by comparison. The frenetic pace from Friday’s game was lacking Sunday, and the teams didn’t trade goals in the same fashion.
Of course, the Gophers faithful were plenty happy with their team dominating the action from start to finish to back up that No. 1 ranking. This weekend was the toughest test Minnesota has faced in the young season, and they passed it by earning a win and a tie against a Top-5 opponent. That has the Gophers feeling pretty good as they head into a bye week.
“It’s college hockey. Anyone can beat the best team any night,” Ambroz said. “There’s really no difference between a top team and a non-ranked team. It just depends on the night and who’s playing well and who’s not. But right now, we’re playing with a little bit of swagger, which is good.”