Minnesota-BC game lives up to hype of two Top-5 teams

MINNEAPOLIS — It’s a shame that a game this entertaining had to be settled in a shootout.

The top-ranked Gophers men’s hockey team hosted No. 5 Boston College on Friday, and the game lived up to the hype. From start to finish, the action was fast-paced and the goals were plentiful. And even though the Eagles won the shootout after a scoreless overtime, it will officially go down as a tie for both teams.

“It was a heck of a game,” said Gophers head coach Don Lucia. “The pace, the plays that were made by both teams, if you made a mistake you were going to pay.  . . . It was one of those games where you had to not only be physically engaged but mentally engaged on your assignments from start to finish.”

The Gophers entered Friday’s game a perfect 4-0-0 and garnered the nation’s No. 1 ranking earlier in the week. Boston College, meanwhile, came to Minneapolis with a 2-1-0 record and the No. 5 ranking. In the early going Friday at Mariucci Arena, it appeared as if the Gophers were in clear control of this Top-5 matchup. Freshman forward Hudson Fasching scored just 30 seconds in Friday’s contest to give Minnesota an early lead. Four minutes later, Travis Boyd scored on the power play to make it a 2-0 Gophers edge.

But the Eagles have weapons, as was evident by last week’s 9-2 drubbing of Wisconsin. After the Gophers admittedly got comfortable with the 2-0 lead, Boston College went to work. Junior forward Johnny Gaudreau scored from a tough angle on the power play to chip away at Minnesota’s lead. Then, a minute later, Edina, Minn., native Michael Sit netted his second career goal for BC to tie things up.

In a matter of just 11 seconds, Boston College took the lead as Sit once again beat Minnesota goalie Adam Wilcox before the in-arena announcer could finish announcing Sit’s first goal. What once felt like a comfortable two-goal lead for the Gophers turned into a one-goal deficit in the blink of an eye.

“They’re a team that can do that,” Lucia said. “They’ve got some high-end skill. Sit made a couple good plays to score those two goals. It’s 3-2 about 12 minutes into the game, you’re wondering if it’s going to be one of those 8-7 type games.”

While the early scoring made a final score of that nature seem possible, both teams settled down after the early onslaught. Wilcox stopped the rest of the shots he faced, and Gophers freshman Taylor Cammarata scored from the faceoff circle to even things at the 15:33 mark of the second period.

Given how entertaining the game was, perhaps it was fitting that it went to a 5-minute overtime. But after neither team could score in the extra session — Cammarata had Minnesota’s best chance — it went to a shootout, a new wrinkle in the new Big Ten Conference. Since Friday’s game was a non-conference affair, the result of the shootout was meaningless for both teams.

Essentially, it was a chance for Minnesota to get some practice in what could eventually determine valuable points in conference play later in the season.

“It’s a tie, but it’s good practice for us,” Lucia said. “It’s interesting the dynamics of winning and losing a shootout. You lose a shootout and sometimes you feel like you lost the game when in fact it is a tie, especially in nonconference. It was good for us to go through that and just get a feel for what the shootout’s like.”

Boston College center Bill Arnold scored first in the shootout as the Eagles’ second shooter, beating Wilcox on a deke move. The Gophers needed a goal from Kyle Rau, their third and final shooter, to extend the shootout. Rau answered with a goal, keeping the night alive for Minnesota.

After Patrick Brown scored for BC, Fasching was denied by Eagles goalie Thatcher Demko as Boston College held on to win the shootout — but not the game.

“We lost the shootout, but it was a lot of fun,” Boyd said. “It’s something new. I think there’s been a lot of talk about it, even going into the WCHA the last couple years. I’m one of those guys who’s for it. I think it’s an exciting thing for the fans and the players.”

The leftover excitement from Friday’s back-and-forth game will have to wait a few days, as the two teams are off Saturday before concluding the series on Sunday. Minnesota feels that might not be such a bad thing, especially since the Gophers had to play with five defensemen for most of the game after Jake Parenteau left in the first period with an injury. He didn’t return to the game, but Lucia hopes Parenteau will be back on Sunday.

The off day Saturday could be a useful day of rest for both Top-5 teams after Friday’s thrilling clash.

“It was a tough game, but I think maybe we could use a day to rest up after a game like that,” Boyd said. “It was fast-paced. Having a day to rest the legs isn’t a bad thing.”

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