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Updated: November 4th, 2011 10:31pm
Patterson, Gophers record first shutout versus North Dakota since 2004

Patterson, Gophers record first shutout versus North Dakota since 2004

by Nate Sandell
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- The Gophers hockey team prevailed through three tension-filled and penalty-rampant periods, for a 2-0 victory over North Dakota on Friday, in a game befitting of the heated border rivalry.

The skinny

"U" goalie Kent Patterson's dominant start to the season continued Friday. The senior goaltender turned away 24 shots by the Sioux for his school-record fifth shutout of the season, and the Gophers' first against North Dakota since 2004.

Patterson's performance in net anchored an impressive defensive showing by the Gophers, who were able to withstand relentless torment from the Sioux.

"He's making key saves at pivotal moments," coach Don Lucia said of Patterson. "You're best penalty-killer is your goaltender and Kent has certainly done that. But I like the way guys are willing to block shots in front of him and clean up the rebounds."

Following a methodical, defense-heavy, scoreless first period, sophomore Nick Bjugstad's scored on the power play in the second period to put the Gophers in front first, where they would stay for the remainder of the game.

"We started off slow the first five, 10 minutes, so having those power plays and connecting on one was definitely big for us and got us going, and set us up for the rest of the game," Bjugstad said.

Left wing Tom Serratore's goal midway through the third period cemented the Gophers' lead at two.

Both teams constantly berated each other for the entire game, leading to a total of 29 penalties. The Gophers accounted for 15, including Seth Ambroz's five-minute major and 10-minute misconduct penalty, which resulted in his ejection from the game, for a check from behind in the second period.

"We got a bit discombobulated with all the penalties," Lucia said. "But you know what? We scored the power play goal and didn't give up one."

The Gophers outshot North Dakota 32 to 24, cushioned by 24 shots in the first two periods.

With the victory, the Gophers move to 8-1 on the year, and are owners of five straight conference wins.

Turning point

In the aftermath of a skirmish in front of the "U" net, midway through the second period, that resulted in nine players heading to the penalty box, the Gophers emerged up a man and on the power play for the fifth time of the night

Unlike their four previous tries, the Gophers capitalized.

With the defense drawn to the left side of the goal, freshman Kyle Rau was able to sneak the puck out to a wide-open Bjugstad, who sent a slap-shot past North Dakota goaltender Aaron Dell for the Gophers' crucial opening goal.

"If I wouldn't have scored I think I would have caught some heat from the guys, because it was a three-on-zero," Bjugstad said. "Fortunately, it went in."

Numbers game

69: Combined penalty minutes for the two squads (Gophers - 15 penalties, 41 minutes; North Dakota - 14 penalties, 28 minutes).

14: Points (seven goals, seven assists) for freshman Kyle Rau, whose pass in the second period set up Bjugstad's goal. Rau ranks second in the WCHA in total points, behind only teammate Erik Haula (seven goals, 10 assists).

0-for-7: North Dakota's power play total.

141-128-14: Gophers' all-time record against North Dakota, though the Sioux have won or tied 14 of the last 20 meetings between the two teams.

Overheard

"It was another ho-hum game, huh?"

-- Lucia joked to reporters following the game.

"I'm going to have to make a few big saves every once in a while. But our team overall -- guys are checking and picking up guys so they're not getting those opportunities. Guys are blocking shots on the penalty kill when they have scoring chances."

-- Patterson, addressing what has led to his five shutouts this season.

"We're just trying to bring the program back to what it was before. We've been done the past couple of years. We've really got the team, the skill and the work ethic to be able to do what we want to this year."

-- Patterson, on the Gophers' quick start to the season.

Summary

First period

No scoring

Second period

• Gophers -- Nick Bjugstad (7) on the power play, assists by Kyle Rau (7) and Nate Schmidt (11), 12:44. Gophers 1, North Dakota 0

Third period

• Gophers - Tom Serratore (2), assists by Nick Larson (1) and Travis Boyd (3), 11:17. Gophers 2, North Dakota 0

Coming up

The Gophers (8-1, 5-0 in the WCHA) wrap up the weekend series on Saturday (7:37 p.m.), searching for their first regular season series sweep of the Sioux (3-5-1, 1-4 in the WCHA) since their 2002 NCAA championship season.

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