MINNEAPOLIS – In front of the third-largest crowd in Mariucci Arena history, No. 1 Minnesota opened the weekend with a 5-1 win against No. 6 North Dakota on Friday night — extending the Gophers’ unbeaten streak to nine games including six consecutive wins.
With an announced crowd of 10,318, Minnesota (17-3-3 overall, 9-3-3 Western Collegiate Hockey Association) rallied after an early one-goal deficit with five unanswered goals in the win to take over first in the WCHA with 21 points. The Gophers have now outscored opponents 32-7 during the team’s current unbeaten streak while the team also improved to 7-1-1 this season against nationally ranked foes.
Nate Condon led the way for Minnesota with two assists and a goal while Erik Haula added a goal and an assist in the win — the junior’s assist marked his 100th career point with the Gophers, making him the first Minnesota player to reach the 100-point plateau since Jay Barribal on Oct. 30, 2009.
While the Minnesota offense was sizzling, Adam Wilcox and the Gophers’ blue-line corps continued to shine as the WCHA’s top defense. Wilcox improved to a WCHA best 16-2-3 in his rookie campaign with 24 saves on Friday while the defense allowed one goal – the fifth time during the team’s six-game winning streak that the Gophers have allowed a goal or less.
After North Dakota (13-7-3, 8-4-3) opened the night with a goal from Michael Parks that bounced off a Minnesota defenseman, Zach Budish quickly fired back for Minnesota with his eighth goal of the season at 6:06 of the second period (assists from Sam Warning and Condon). Ben Marshall sent the top-ranked Gophers into the second intermission on a high note, scoring the eventual game winner with six seconds to go in the second period after being set up by Seth Ambroz and Condon on a Minnesota power play. The Gophers would go 1-for-5 on the advantage on Friday while the penalty killing unit went 3-for-4.
The late goal in the second carried momentum into the third for Minnesota as Haula and Nick Bjugstad would set up Nate Schmidt’s goal at 6:03 before Condon and Haula would add two more to seal the win for the Gophers. Condon’s unassisted, shorthanded goal at 15:24 was followed up just 1:31 later by Haula’s empty-net goal (assisted by Bjugstad and Ambroz — both would finish the night with two assists).
Haula, who missed the last three games with an injury, returned to action in true form. The junior currently leads Minnesota with 28 points this season (10 goals, 18 assists) and finished the night with 101 career points.
Minnesota and North Dakota return to action on Saturday.