Jan. 17, 2010

Courtesy of Minnesota

A late second-period flurry that included the fastest two goals in Minnesota history lifted the Gophers to a 5-1 win over fourth-ranked North Dakota on Saturday at Mariucci Arena.

Tony Lucia and Jacob Cepis scored the fastest consecutive goals in Minnesota history late in the second period as the Gophers put away the Sioux with three goals in the final 5:09 of the frame. Lucia and Cepis scored just seven seconds apart, eclipsing the record of eight seconds by Larry Olimb and Lance Pitlick from Feb. 27, 1989 against Colorado College.

Junior goalie Alex Kangas also had a big night for the Gophers with 34 saves, including several spectacular stops. It was Minnesota's largest win over North Dakota since a 6-1 victory on Jan. 13, 2006, which was also the last time the Gophers beat the Sioux at Mariucci Arena as North Dakota was 4-0-2 in its last six games.

Saturday's game was played in front of the second-largest paid attendance in Minnesota history. The crowd of 10,342 was only surpassed by the 10,527 that saw the Gophers play Wisconsin on Nov. 6, 2004.

The Gophers moved to within three points of the Sioux for sixth place in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association as Minnesota is now 12-10-2 overall and 7-7-2 in the WCHA. The Gophers are 7-1-1 over their last nine games, while North Dakota dropped to 12-7-5 overall and 8-7-3 in the league. It marked the first time in the Sioux's seven losses they've lost by more than one goal.

North Dakota owned a 35-23 advantage in shots, but most of that edge came in the third period as each team had nine shots in the first period and 12 in the second. Trailing 4-0 entering the final period, the Sioux outshot the Gophers 14-2.

Minnesota led 1-0 after the opening period with Josh Birkholz getting the only goal of the period at the 18:11 mark. Nico Sacchetti and Ryan Flynn had assists on the play as each team had nine shots in the first period.

North Dakota had the better of the chances early in the second period, but could not any shots get past Kangas. Mario Lamoureux had a chance that rolled along the goal line and Ben Blood hit a post later in the period. Kangas also made several outstanding saves during the span and had another on Lamoureux with less than six minutes left in the game.

Minnesota took advantage of a fortuitous bounce at the 14:51 mark of the period on a goal by Zach Budish. The Gopher won a faceoff in the Sioux zone and the puck bounced between skates of several players before Budish and a North Dakota player both hit the puck with their sticks at the same time and it sailed in the air and over Sioux goalie Brad Eidsness. Budish was credited with an unassisted goal for his fifth score of the year.

Lucia and Cepis had their record-setting flurry start at the 18:06 mark when Lucia picked off a pass and raced to the other end, beating Eidsness over his right shoulder for the goal. Cepis scored off a perfect pass from Jordan Schroeder for his fourth goal in just his sixth game as a Gopher. Schroeder extended his scoring streak to six games and Cepis now has points in five straight games following the goal.

The Gophers opened the third period on a five-on-three power play and converted on the man-advantage after North Dakota had returned one of its players. Mike Hoeffel took a shot from the left faceoff circle that Eidsness looked to have controlled between his right arm and the post, but it trickled through to give the Gophers a power play goal for the eighth straight game. The goal came at 55 seconds of the third period.

North Dakota finally solved Kangas when Darcy Zajac collected a loose puck in the slot and ripped a shot into the upper corner at the 8:33 mark of the period. Minnesota also held North Dakota to 0-for-6 on the power play as the Gopher opponents have now scored once in their last 25 chances. Minnesota was 1-for-4 on the man advantage and Eidsness made 18 saves for the Sioux.

The Gophers will next take on St. Cloud State in a home-and-home series Friday in St. Cloud and Saturday at Mariucci Arena.