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Updated: November 5th, 2011 11:37pm
Kyle Rau's last-second goal caps off Gophers' series sweep of Sioux

Kyle Rau's last-second goal caps off Gophers' series sweep of Sioux

by Nate Sandell
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- One night after goaltender Kent Patterson's 2-0 shutout, Gophers hockey freshman Kyle Rau tipped in a goal with 45.8 seconds remaining to give the "U" a thrilling 3-2 victory and its first regular season series sweep of rival North Dakota at Mariucci Arena in 15 years.

The skinny

Scoring opportunities weren't in short supply for the Gophers, but converting on them was an issue.

Despite out-shooting the Sioux by 42-19, a pair of efficient goals by North Dakota had the Gophers in a 2-1 hole midway through the second period. The Gophers' frustration and a number of botched chances continued to escalate until fourth-line winger Nick Larson snuck the tying goal by Sioux goalie Aaron Dell with just over six minutes left in the game.

It was just the way the series went," Larson said. "We knew if we were able to get to the net, sooner or later it was going to bounce up to us."

Overtime seemed to be imminent, but a last-minute surge by the Gophers eliminated the need for extra-time. Wedged in front of the net, the five-foot-eight Rau managed to bring in a desperation-pass from Zach Budish and send it past Dell, throwing the over-capacity crowd into a deafening frenzy.

"The crowd erupted. The bench erupted. It was a great finishing touch to a great weekend ... Kyle came up huge for us," Larson said.

Unlike Friday's game, the Gophers established an aggressive tempo early on and the adjustment produced the wanted result.

Seconds after killing their first penalty of the game, the Gophers inflicted heavy pressure on the Sioux net in the first period. Amid a scrum for the puck, sophomore Nick Bjugstad knocked in the go-ahead goal and his second of the series.

But less than three minutes later North Dakota took advantage of a mental lapse by the "U" defense as center Brock Nelson netted a power play goal -- only the second score Patterson had allowed in the last five games.

Even with the "U" holding a tremendous shot advantage, North Dakota notched its second goal eight minutes into the second period off a slap shot by Rocco Grimaldi. The one-goal lead was nearly enough for the struggling Sioux, but Larson's score triggered a momentum swing for the Gophers that they didn't relinquish. 

"We were kind of starting to loose our legs in the third period, but we got the energy back when we scored that tying goal," Lucia said.

Turning point

Though the tide of the game may already have been moving in the Gophers' favor after Larson's goall, North Dakota mounted a potent threat around the three minute mark in the third.

However, Patterson scrambled to deflect a precision shot from the Sioux's Brock Nelson that put the puck back in the Gophers' possession for their final push.

"He didn't make a lot of saves, but he had to make some timely saves," Lucia said of Patterson. "It's a save like that that gives you a chance to win at the end."

Numbers game

0-for-6: Gophers' total on the power play.

8: Goals on the year for Bjugstad and Rau, making them the Gophers' current scoring leaders.

51: Total penalty minutes served by the Gophers in the weekend series as they maintained their title as the most-penalized team in the WCHA (219).

25: Of those minutes were accounted for by freshman Seth Ambroz, who was ejected on Friday for a check from behind. Ambroz's interference penalty in the first period Saturday set North Dakota up for its eventual power play goal.

Overheard

"It was a blast. You watch it on T.V. growing up and think 'I can't wait to be out their one day.' It's just amazing being out there."

-- Rau, talking about his first experience playing in the Gophers-North Dakota rivalry.

Summary

First period

• Gophers -- Nick Bjugstad (8), assists by Zach Budish (7) and Justin Holl (3), 7:09. Gophers 1, North Dakota 0

• North Dakota - Brock Nelson (5) on the power play, assists by Dillon Simpson (1) and Corban Knight (7), 9:46. Gophers 1, North Dakota 1

Second period

• North Dakota - Rocco Grimaldi (1), assist by Nick Mattson (4), 8:39. North Dakota 2, Gophers 1

Third period

• Gophers -- Nick Larson (1), assist by Travis Boyd (4), 13:56. Gophers 2, North Dakota 2

• Gophers -- Kyle Rau (8), assists by Budish (8) and Bjugstad (7), 19:14. Gophers 3, North Dakota 2

Coming up

The Gophers (9-1, 6-0 in the WCHA) go from one rival to another, traveling to Wisconsin (4-5-1, 3-4-1 in the WCHA) next weekend (Nov. 11 and Nov. 11, 7 p.m.) for their fourth conference series of the season.

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