Gophers lose on late Colorado College goal
MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota Gophers sophomore Nick Bjugstad has enjoyed a good run through his hockey career in high school and college.
Bjugstad was a celebrated prep player, winning Mr. Hockey in Minnesota his senior season at Blaine High School and was selected with the 19th overall pick in the 2010 draft by the Florida Panthers. The 6-foot-5, 211-pound center for Minnesota then had a solid freshman season for the Gophers last season.
Through it all, he hadn't had to deal with anything like he faced Friday night as No. 4 ranked Minnesota hosted No. 11 Colorado College.
Bjugstad tied the game 1-all with his 20th goal of the season with just 1 minute, 17 seconds left. But Tigers senior forward Tim Hall answered, scoring during a wild scramble in front of Gophers goaltender Kent Patterson with just 36 seconds left to give Colorado College a 2-1 win against Minnesota.
"I've never had a loss like this," Bjugstad said. "It's pretty tough. Obviously they're a good team, a team we want to beat in the standings, so pretty disappointing."
The Gophers (16-9-1, 12-5-0 WCHA) lost for the fourth time in five games and dropped out of first place in the conference after Minnesota-Duluth held on to win 2-1 against Alabama-Huntsville. Of Minnesota's nine losses, eight have been by one goal.
For the first 58 minutes, the scoreboard wasn't matching the billing as two of the top three scoring teams in the nation met up. The Gophers entered Friday second in scoring, averaging four goals per game and the Tigers are third, scoring 3.68 per game.
"Anticipating this weekend we kind of knew it was going to be a fast-paced game, a transition game," Bjugstad said. "But you've got two good goaltenders and it was a low-scoring game. There were a lot of shots and a lot of offense."
The two teams went up-and-down Friday, but the defenses and goaltenders held.
Patterson, who's played every minute this season for Minnesota, made 25 saves. Colorado College goaltender Josh Thorimbert stopped 38 shots to earn the win. Thorimbert has started eight of the past 10 games for the Tigers, going 6-2 during that stretch.
"Both goaltenders, the way the game was going, you knew it was going to be low scoring and who's going to make a mistake," Gophers coach Don Lucia said. "I thought our penalty kill did a good job. We kept the Schwartz's (Colorado College brothers Rylan and Jaden) off the board tonight. Going in, if you can do those things, you give yourself a good chance to win, but we didn't do enough offensively.
"Some of that was what we didn't do. A lot of it was what they did. A lot of it was goaltender making some saves too."
Bjugstad finished off his ninth shot of the game late in the third after Patterson was pulled for an extra skater. Gophers defenseman Mark Alt took a shot from the point. Jake Hansen had another shot on a rebound chance before a Colorado College defenseman tried to clear the puck out of the zone.
The clearing attempt went right to Bjugstad, who snuck the puck past Thorimbert for his 20th of the season, second most in the nation this season.
Minnesota then made the mistake Lucia was worried about. Off a faceoff, there was a scramble in front of Patterson and Hall fell to the ice as slipped the puck past the Patterson's right pad.
"Our center got beat," Lucia said. "He went to the net and got beat. Since he was getting beat, our defenseman leaves his guy to go to that guy and the guy he was on scores on the rebound. That's usually what happens, somebody makes a mistake. Right before we went out there we talked about, 'Make sure we don't let them go to the net on the draw.' And they went to the net on the draw."
It was just the third time all season the Gophers had allowed a goal with less than a minute left in a period.
"We had a good charge," Lucia said. "The disappointing thing, obviously, is you work hard to get the game tied late like we did and then made a mistake off a faceoff and that cost us the game and some valuable points."
Minnesota hosts Colorado College again Saturday as part of Hockey Day in Minnesota. Game time is scheduled for an earlier 5 p.m. start between the annual event's high school coverage and the NHL's Minnesota Wild in the evening. The game can be seen locally on FOX Sports North.