LIVE › 8-9 p.m. ESPN Radio Tonight
NEXT › 9 p.m. ESPN SportsCenter
9:05 p.m. Sports Center Tonight
10 p.m. ESPN SportsCenter
11 p.m. ESPN SportsCenter
Midnight ESPN SportsCenter
Updated: October 7th, 2011 9:30pm
Close first period gives way to rout in Gophers' season-opening win

Close first period gives way to rout in Gophers' season-opening win

by Nate Sandell
1500ESPN.com
Email | Twitter

MINNEAPOLIS -- Met with little resistance, the 19th-ranked Gophers hockey team used eight goals in the final two periods to cruise to a 9-0 victory in their season opener against Sacred Heart on Friday.

The skinny

Sophomore center Nick Bjugstad and freshman Seth Ambroz led the scoring barrage with two goals apiece as the Gophers relentlessly tormented Sacred Hearts with 47 shots on net. Goalie Kent Patterson complemented the "U's" offensive outburst, turning away 20 shots from the Pioneers.

Set on inflicting heavy pressure on Sacred Heart early on, the Gophers needed only 56 seconds after the opening face-off to notch their first goal. In a flurry of action in front of the net, heralded freshman winger Kyle Rau knocked in his first collegiate goal.

"You want to get that first goal out of the way, but no big surprise that Kyle scores the first goal and from where he did it -- at the blue paint," coach Don Lucia said.

A rout seemed imminent after the quick goal, but penalty trouble held the Gophers back as Sacred Heart went on the power play three times in the first period. Although the Pioneers failed to capitalize, they prevented the "U" from staying on the attack and went into the dressing room down by one goal.

"We took a lot of penalties and coach Lucia got on us a little bit in the locker room," Bjugstad said. "We didn't have much momentum at the end of the first period."

That changed, however, in the second period. With their penalty minutes under control, the Gophers finally began to take advantage of their high shot output. Jake Hansen started the scoring frenzy with a goal off an assist from Erik Haula.

"We had some erratic play at times, which didn't surprise me," Lucia said. "Kent had to make some critical saves, especially early in the second period. But once we got that second goal. I thought we relaxed a bit and took off from there."

The "U" would go on to score seven more times, ending with a total of 15 players combining for nine goals and 15 assists.

Turning point

Already up 2-0, the Gophers erased any chance Sacred Heart had of a comeback late in the second period, scoring three goals in just over four minutes to put the game out-of-reach.

Numbers game

7: Players scored goals for the Gophers, including a pair by both Nick Bjugstad and Seth Ambroz.

3: Freshman (Kyle Rau, Sam Warning and Seth Ambroz) tallied their first career goals.

1: Of the Gophers' nine goals came on the power play. Sacred Heart committed seven penalties, but the "U" netted only one of its 17 power play shots.

Overheard

"The third period was maybe our best period. We kept coming. We kept making plays and some guys got rewarded."

-- Lucia, on the final period in which the Gophers scored four goals off 12 shots.

"That's what we've seen every day in practice -- this team wants to work. It's a great foundation and hopefully we can continue to do that"

-- Lucia, talking about the way the Gophers rebounded from a mediocre first period.

Scoring summary

First period

• Gophers -- Kyle Rau (1), assist by Zach Budish (1), 0:56, 1-0 Gophers.

Second period

• Gophers -- Jake Hansen (1), assists by Erik Haula (1) and Mark Alt (1), 5:26, 2-0 Gophers.

• Gophers -- Nick Bjugstad (1), assist by Nate Schmidt (1), 14:24, 3-0 Gophers.

• Gophers -- Erik Haula (1), assist by Kyle Rau (1), 16:27, 4-0 Gophers.

• Gophers -- Sam Warning (1), assists by Jake Hansen (1) and Justin Holl (1), 18:37, 5-0 Gophers.

Third period

• Gophers -- Nick Bjugstad (2), assists by Zach Budish (2) and Mark Alt (2), 0:48, 6-0 Gophers

• Gophers -- Tom Serratore (1), assists by Blake Thompson (1) and Travis Boyd (1), 8:35, 7-0 Gophers

• Gophers -- Seth Ambroz (1), assists by Nate Schmidt (2) and Tyler Matson (1), 16:19, 8-0 Gophers

• Gophers -- Seth Ambroz (2), assists by Nate Condon (1) and Blake Thompson (2), 19:11, 9-0 Gophers

Coming up

The Gophers' season-opening series versus Sacred Heart concludes on Saturday night (7 p.m. LIVE on 1500ESPN).

Nate Sandell is a contributor to 1500ESPN.com.
Email Nate | @nsandell
3198