Gophers win Game 1 in overtime
Six times this year, Minnesota went to overtime. The Gophers didn't win or lose. So Friday night when they were forced into an extra period in game one of the WCHA playoffs it was rewarding to come out with a win.
Bemidji State, the No. 11 seed in the 12-team conference tournament, showed the same pluck and muscle on the big ice sheet at Mariucci Arena that it had on its NHL-sized rink in Bemidji last weekend when the Gophers swept the final series of the regular season. In a tough, grinder game that also saw splashes of rapid-fire offense by Minnesota, the Beavers trailed by only a goal late in the third period. That was Ben Marshall's seventh marker of the season, scored early in the second period.
And then it happened.
Last-minute heroics: With the clock winding down at the end of the third period and trailing 1-0, BSU coach Tom Serratore pulled goalie Andrew Walsh. With the extra attacker, the Beavers' Brance Orban scored with 38 seconds left in regulation time. It was Orban's 22nd point of the season, tying a career high.
The extra period: After a full intermission the teams skated into a 20-minute overtime that most fans in the building hoped would be over soon. It wasn't. Instead, the teams continued to test each other, forcing both goalies—Minnesota's Adam Wilcox and Bemidji State's Walsh—to make big saves.
Finally, at 13:18 of overtime, the Gophers' Kyle Rau, who had assisted on Marshall's earlier goal, buried his 15th of the season on his own rebound.
Final: Minnesota 2, Bemidji State 1 in overtime.
The Gophers' lathered 51 shots on Walsh, whose 49-save performance earned him the game's third star. Wilcox turned away 17 of 18 Beaver shots. Rau and Marshall were voted number one and two stars respectively.
Tired legs: After staying with — and at times ahead of — Minnesota in three straight games, the Beavers have shown themselves to be a well-coached team with a terrific work ethic. The question is: can they keep it up after Friday's lengthy trench warfare? Serratore called time out in the overtime period to try to rest some tired legs. Moments after play resumed, Rau nailed the game-winner.
After the game, Minnesota head coach Don Lucia told me, "They (BSU) were gassed. They played well, gave us everything we expected they would and they were worn out."
So what does this bode for game two? Playoff logic says that unless the Beavers jump off to an early lead of at least two goals, something they've rarely done all season, the first round belongs to Minnesota. It might be ugly. It could be lopsided if the Gophers go flat out and Bemidji State has shot its bolt. I wouldn't bet a lot on that, however.
Warning out: Gophers forward Sam Warning did not play Friday. The nature of his injury has not been divulged.
Join Tom Chorske, Ben Clymer and me for game two of the best-of-three first round playoff series between the Gophers and Bemidji State Saturday night at 7 (6:30 for "Gophers Live" with Jamie Hersch and coach Doug Woog) on FOX Sports North!