Despite his squad’s decisive win one night earlier, Minnesota hockey coach Don Lucia said he sought greater consistency Saturday night against Michigan State.
Apparently, Lucia got the Gophers’ attention. Top-ranked Minnesota bolted to a 3-0 lead barely seven minutes into its clash with Michigan State on the way to a 7-1 victory.
Minnesota (2-0-0) got eye-opening performances from several skaters as it unleashed 34 shots on goal. Six separate Gophers registered two points apiece: Brady Skjei, Kyle Rau, Justin Holl, Erik Haula, Zach Budish and Christian Isackson.
“We got good balance,” Lucia said afterward. “We got off to a great start (and) we played with a lead. … All four lines scored. A lot of good things tonight.”
“We’ve been coming out strong,” Minnesota forward Nate Condon said. “This year we took it right to them because we knew they’re a tough team.”
Barely five minutes in, Minnesota’s 6-foot-6, 220-pound forward Nick Bjugstad handed the hosts a 2-0 advantage off a stellar one-timer pass from Rau.
A couple minutes later, Tom Serratore got in on the scoring spree when the junior forward knocked home a garbage goal in front of the net — his first goal in nearly 11 months.
Finally, with 53 seconds remaining in the opening period, sophomore defenseman Ben Marshall lit the lamp on a deep wrist shot, handing the Gophers a decisive 4-0 lead.
“It’s opening weekend, and we’ve been waiting a while to get back out here. So we feel good,” Rau said, explaining his squad’s abundance of energy.
Further evidence that all the game’s momentum resided in Minnesota’s corner? Rau added to the hosts’ lead just 30 seconds into the second period off a point-blank, one-timer score. The Spartans never recovered.
Saturday marked the first collegiate start for Minnesota goalie Adam Wilcox, a freshman from South St. Paul. The athletic, gambling goaltender acquitted himself well, and No. 16 Michigan State was held scoreless until early in the final period. Wilcox ended with 10 total saves.
This year’s Gophers are viewed as an explosive, balanced group. They lived up to that billing in their two-game set against Michigan State with a ceaseless display of aggressiveness.
“It was men against boys this weekend. You guys have a great team,” said NHL icon Chris Chelios — the father of Spartans Dean and Jake Chelios — in a FOX Sports North interview.
The Gophers return to action next Friday in a 6 p.m. game at Michigan Tech.