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Updated: October 21st, 2011 8:28pm
Kent Patterson perfect again as Gophers blank Vermont

Kent Patterson perfect again as Gophers blank Vermont

by Jess Myers
1500ESPN.com
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Minneapolis - Prior to Friday night, Vermont had never before faced the Gopher hockey team. And after what transpired inside Mariucci Arena over the course of 60 minutes, one would not blame the Catamounts for not wanting to face the Gophers ever again.

The only one who had a quiet night was the gentleman who runs the red goal light behind Minnesota goalie Kent Patterson, as the senior had another perfect outing - his third in as many home games this season. The Gophers blanked Vermont x-x, improving to 5-0-0 for the season

Nick Bjugstad scored a pair of goals, and Minnesota out-shot the Catamounts by a 2-to-1 margin for much of the game.

For Patterson, the dream season (at least at home) continues. He'd never recorded a college shutout prior to this season. Now he has three, and it's only Oct. 21. And where last weekend he needed to face 100 shots to help the Gophers to a pair of wins at Minnesota Duluth, on Friday he saw just 17 pucks come his way.

The skinny

When Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon was in college at Harvard, the biggest game he ever won was in the 1989 NCAA title game, when the Crimson came from behind to be the Gophers in overtime, spoiling the night for a crowd of about 15,000 Minnesota fans at the St. Paul Civic Center. Sneddon could at least joke after Friday night's thrashing that the Gophers are taking it out on him personally, all these years later.

For Minnesota, it was another affirmation that the frustrations they suffered last year may be long gone, and while nobody has appointed them as next in line for WCHA and NCAA titles just yet, what they're doing is working to perfection so far.

"We got off to a quick start, which is always key, especially when you're at home," Gophers coach Don Lucia said. "We were maybe able to get them on their heels a little bit."

Although they're listed as third on the most recent line chart, the trio of Sam Warning, Erik Haula and Jake Hansen is Minnesota's true second line, and clicked again on Friday. Hansen and Haula played together last season, and have freshman Warning on the wing in place of the departed Jacob Cepis. So far, that alliance has worked in a fun way.

"I feel compfortable with my linemates. I've been playing with Haula for a full year now, and Warning is a good addition," said Hansen. "Our line just clicks and we don't take it too serious. We try to joke around and it's helped things out that we're not too anal out there. We're not tense."

Instead, it's the visitors that have to be tense.

"I thought a lot of our guys lost the game before we hit the ice," Sneddon said. "I don't know if we were afraid or fearful of making mistakes or what, but we came out and there wasn't much to our game tonight. From the net out, our go-to players didn't show up."

Turning point

This one was over early - really early. Kyle Rau slipped Minnesota's first shot on goal past Vermont goalie Rob Madore in the opening minute, setting the tone for what would be a long, long night for the visitors.

Numbers game

• 44: Seconds needed for Minnesota to take the lead.

• 2: Number of freshman Kyle Rau's first five collegiate goals that have been scored in the opening minute of a game.

• 0: Goals by the Gophers in the final 20 minutes on Friday, marking the first time this season they have been blanked in a period.

• 4: Multi-point games by Nick Bjugstad and Erik Haula this season.

Summary

First period

Gophers - Kyle Rau 5 (Hansen, Haula), 0:44

Gophers - Sam Warning 3 (Haula, Hansen), 3:37

Gophers - Nick Bjugstad 4 (Budish, Holl), 15:26 

Second period

Gophers - Taylor Mattson 2 (Condon, Helgeson), 7:20

Gophers - Bjugstad 5 (Rau, Budish), 9:52

Gophers - Zach Budish 2 (Ambroz), 13:52, PPG

Third period

No scoring

Shots: Gophers 14-12-12-38; Catamounts 11-2-4-17. Saves: Gophers, Kent Patterson (17-17); Catamounts, Rob Madore (14-19), Alex Vazzano (18-19). Power plays: Gophers 1-for-6, Catamounts 0-6. 

Three stars

1. Nick Bjugstad

2. Zach Budish

3. Kyle Rau

Coming up

Both teams get a rare (for college hockey) day off between games. In order to avoid a scheduling conflict with Saturday's Gophers homecoming football game, the two teams will play again on Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m.

Jess Myers covers the Wild and college hockey for 1500ESPN.com. He is a member of the editorial advisory board for USA Hockey Magazine.
Email Jess | @JessRMyers
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