Another shutout puts Kent Patterson in Gophers puck record books
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Minneapolis - Ahh, the confines of home. For the Gophers hockey team on a cold and snowy night in the big city, being back at Mariucci Arena meant a reversal of the outrageous fortune that had befallen them one night earlier in St. Cloud, and a return to the win column.
After falling victim to St. Cloud State's opportunistic quick-strike offense one night earlier in the home of the Huskies, this night was all about the Gophers flexing their muscle, and doing the things that have propelled them to the top ranking in the nation, at least as of now.
Nick Bjugstad had a hat trick for the Gophers, scoring in the opening period and twice more in the third as the home club turned a 2-0 advantage into a commanding 4-0 lead in seemingly the blink of an eye. Two of the goals came off feeds from Nate Schmidt, which wasn't an accident.
"They took Schmidt in today and watched video, and they noticed I was pretty open last night," Bjugstad said. "We practice those one-timers pretty much every day, so I'm working on it and it's kind of working out."
The final was 5-0, meaning the Gophers will spend at least one more week atop the WCHA standings.
While the offense grabs the headlines and launches fans out of their seats, the quiet work Kent Patterson has done in goal this season is the real story behind Minnesota's early on-ice success. Pressed into emergency duty midway through last season when Alex Kangas' college career came to a premature end due to injury, Patterson has taken the starting goalie role to a new place.
On Saturday Patterson stopped all 30 shots the Huskies sent his way, giving him six shutouts in the Gophers first 14 games, and earning him a place in the school record books for the most shutouts in a season.
"It's not often a guy has a hat trick and gets upstaged," Lucia said. "But tonight that's the case with Kent being able to put his name in the record books. Great accomplishment to get his sixth shutout."
Patterson was quick to credit teammates who allowed him to see, and therefore stop, the puck better than they had one night earlier.
"Our team did a great job clearing guys out and letting me see the puck and whenever I can see the puck I have a good chance of stopping it," said Patterson. "The rebounds in the corners were covered up, so I have to give credit to my defense."
The Huskies seemed intent to solve Patterson and get back in the game in the second, sending 13 shots his way, but their efforts were for naught.
"We didn't really get many great quality chances on Patterson, and when we did he was there," said Huskies coach Bob Motzko. "We did some better things but we needed to get a goal somewhere in the middle there just to wake us up."
Minnesota held a solid 2-0 lead in the third, but having seen the Huskies strike quickly one night earlier, they could not feel comfortable. That's before St. Cloud State's Joey Holka went to the penalty box for interference and Bjugstad scored, on a beautiful cross-ice pass from Nate Schmidt, to give the Gophers a 3-0 lead. On the ensuing shift, defenseman Mark Alt fired a long shot from the blue line that eluded the Huskies goalie and the lead was suddenly a comfortable 4-0.
• 44: Number of seconds between first period goals by Bjugstad and Jake Hansen, giving the Gophers a 2-0 lead.
• 31: Number of seconds between third period goals by Bjugstad and Mark Alt, giving the Gophers a 2-0 lead.
Seth Ambroz left the game for a time after a hard hit, but returned by the third period. No further information was available on his condition.
Gophers - Nick Bjugstad 11 (Budish, Holl), 8:13
Gophers - Jake Hansen (Haula, Boyd), 8:57
Gophers - Bjugstad 12 (Schmidt, Rau), 3:11, PPG
Gophers - Mark Alt 2 (Matson, Condon), 3:42
Gophers - Bjugstad 13 (Schmidt, Haula), 5:42, PPG
Shots: Gophers 10-9-16-35; Huskies 8-13-9-30. Saves: Gophers, Kent Patterson (30-30); Huskies, Ryan Faragher (30-35). Power plays: Gophers 2-for-5, Huskies 0-4.
1. Kent Patterson
2. Nick Bjugstad
3. Nate Schmidt
Over the Thanksgiving weekend, we get a quick preview of what Big Ten hockey will look like in two years, as the Gophers travel to East Lansing for a pair with Michigan State. Road trips are nothing new for the Gophers, who have been to Duluth, Anchorage and St. Cloud already this season. But with a 5-2-0 record on the road so far, they're doing things right while wearing the dark sweaters.
"We're back on the road again, but the good thing is that when we get back after Thanksgiving we only have seven more road games for the season," Lucia said. "We've done our job so far on the road early in the year."