Minnesota opened eyes Sunday night in the finale of the Mariucci Classic.
By TYLER MASONFS North
MINNEAPOLIS —Minnesota wanted to make a statement.
This was the Boston College squad that knocked the Gophers out of the playoffs last year. These Eagles came to Minneapolis as the top-ranked team in college hockey.
How does a lopsided seven-goal victory do for a statement?
Fourth-ranked Minnesota trounced No. 1 Boston College on Sunday in the finale of the Mariucci Classic, beating the Eagles by an 8-1 final in front of 10,230 boisterous fans at Mariucci Arena. It was a dominating effort from start to finish, one that saw the Gophers score three times in the first period en route to their biggest win — and most complete game — of the season.
One of these two teams played like the best team in the country Sunday. It certainly wasn't the top-ranked Eagles.
"They were clearly a better team than we were tonight," Boston College coach Jerry York said of the Gophers. "I thought they were stronger, smarter with the puck. They certainly deserved to win."
It was hard for anyone to see such a one-sided affair coming. All week, Minnesota's players had their eyes set on Sunday's matchup, even though they first had to play Air Force on Saturday. The Gophers wanted to avenge last year's playoff loss to BC, a 6-1 Eagles win in the Frozen Four. Minnesota also wanted to show that it is one of the best teams in college hockey. And as they say, to be the best, you've got to beat the best.
That's exactly what the Gophers did Sunday.
"It's just one of those nights that went our way tonight," said Minnesota coach Don Lucia. "We've all been in games like that where it just starts to break. The pucks start to go in the net, and then all of a sudden the avalanche comes. I'm proud of our guys. It's an outstanding team we beat, outstanding program."
Six different players scored goals Sunday for Minnesota. Forwards Nick Bjugstad and Kyle Rau each found the net twice, and Bjugstad added two assists for a game-high four points. Freshman goalie Adam Wilcox stopped 32 of the 33 shots he faced, losing what would have been his second shutout in as many nights when BC's Steven Whitney scored late in the third period.
Minnesota scored four power play goals and added a short-handed goal by Sam Warning for the final tally of the evening. From start to finish, top line to the fourth line, the Gophers played a complete game.
And they did so against the nation's best team.
"It's unbelievable. I know the whole hockey world was watching us," Wilcox said. "When they look at it and see Gophers (win) 8-1, that puts our name on the board. … We worked hard. I didn't expect anything less with the way our team's been playing."
Boston College hadn't allowed more than four goals this season. Minnesota reached that mark by the midway point of the second period when right wing Nate Condon netted his fifth goal of the year. The Gophers weren't done scoring, though. In fact, they would go on to score four more times as they embarrassed Boston College just one day after York became the winningest hockey coach in NCAA history with a win over Alabama-Huntsville.
It was only fitting that the Mariucci Classic's all-tournament team was comprised of all Gophers. Forwards Erik Haula, Bjugstad, and Rau, defensemen Jake Parenteau and Nate Schmidt and Wilcox made up the all-tournament team. Wilcox, who allowed one goal in two games, was named the tournament MVP.
York said the loss was a slice of humble pie for his Eagles. For the Gophers, it was validation that they were better than their play indicated in the first half of the season.
"We realize they're a top team in the country. We didn't expect a blowout at all," Bjugstad said. "We had some bounces. We had everything going for us tonight. You can't look past them. We'll probably see them later in the season."
Of course, Bjugstad was referring to the playoffs. If all goes well for both teams, there's a chance they may meet again in the postseason. Plenty more would be on the line if that were the case, but at least for one night, the Gophers feel they proved they were indeed the better team.
That confidence is something Minnesota can carry with it throughout the remainder of the regular season.
"After tonight, we realized we have scoring ability and good goaltending and good defense," Bjugstad said. "If you've got a good goalie and you can score some goals, you've got a good year ahead of you."