MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. - Led by a pair of goals from sophomore Nick Bjugstad, the eighth-ranked Minnesota Golden Gophers defeated visiting Vermont 6-0 on Friday night in non-conference action at Mariucci Arena in the Catamounts' season opener. Minnesota improves its unbeaten record to 5-0-0 (2-0-0 WCHA), while UVM falls to 0-1-0 (0-0-0 HEA).
"I think a lot of our guys kind of lost the game before we hit the ice, we came out and there wasn't much to our game tonight," said head coach Kevin Sneddon. "It's not an X's and O's thing, we got beat to every loose puck and we got beat in one-on-one battles. Our go-to players certainly were not special tonight in any way, shape, or form. It's disappointing."
The Gophers started fast and opened the scoring just 44 seconds after the opening faceoff, as freshman Kyle Rau gained control of a loose puck on the right corner of Rob Madore's crease. Rau waited patiently and tucked it away with a low shot around Madore's extended left pad. Jake Hansen and Erik Haula were credited with the assists.
Hansen and Haula were the catalysts once again less than three minutes later as the Golden Gophers extended their lead to 2-0. Senior defenseman Drew MacKenzie lost his footing in the left corner, allowing Haula to skate out to the faceoff circle. The sophomore found rookie Sam Warning, who drifted near the right side of the crease and beat Madore in the same fashion as Rau's tally.
Bjugstad netted his first goal of the night in transition at 15:26 of the opening frame on a 2-on-1. He skated down the left side and ripped a shot through Madore's five hole as UVM's defense was backing up. Minnesota took a 3-0 lead into the first intermission, outshooting Vermont 14-11 in the opening twenty minutes.
The Catamounts began the second period with 1:18 remaining on a power play but couldn't convert, and they came up empty on another man-up opportunity just minutes later. Golden Gopher captain Taylor Matson then made it a 4-0 game at 7:20 of the second period after finishing off a one-timer in front of goal from a centering feed courtesy of Nate Condon.
Shortly after, Minnesota native Anthony DeCenzo fell down along the boards at center ice, allowing Rau to scoop up the loose puck and skate to the left circle. He dished a pass to Bjugstad, who delivered his second goal of the night with a quick one-timer over the left shoulder of Madore. The senior netminder was replaced by sophomore Alex Vazzano after the fifth Minnesota goal at 9:52.
Four minutes later, Minnesota tallied its sixth goal of the evening on the power play. H.T. Lenz attempted to steal the puck at the right point but came up empty, and it was taken back by Zach Budish. The Gopher assistant captain unleashed a wrist shot from the top of the right circle and slid it low past Vazzano off the right post. Seth Ambroz picked up the lone assist on the play.
The teams played a scoreless third period as the Catamounts killed off three consecutive Minnesota man advantages. The Gophers entered the night with the top-ranked power play in the country at 39%, but they finished the contest just 1-6. UVM was 0-6 on the power play, squandering two chances in each period.
"We got some good play out off our penalty killers at times and our fourth line," said Sneddon. "Our power play guys were certainly not focused and thinking clearly and we need a better effort, not a lot of positives to our game tonight. I'm looking forward to seeing how our team responds and luckily we get another crack at them on Sunday."
Senior Kent Patterson made 17 saves for Minnesota to earn his third shutout of the season and has yet to allow a goal at home this season. Madore finished the game with 14 stops for Vermont, while Vazzano collected 18 saves in relief and allowed just one goal in his fifth career appearance.
The two teams square off again on Sunday (Oct. 23) with a 2 p.m. (EST) faceoff at Mariucci Arena. The game will be televised live on NESN and Fox Sports North, and it can also be heard on WVMT 620-AM and SportsJuice.com beginning at 1:30 p.m. (EST). Alastair Ingram handles the play-by-play with former Catamount Matt Stelljes '97 providing color commentary.
NOTES: Vermont and Minnesota are meeting for the first time ever in men's hockey this weekend ... Rob Madore played in his 100th career game in Friday night's season opener ... The Catamounts fall to 3-6 in season-opening games under head coach Kevin Sneddon ... UVM has two Minnesota natives on its roster: Anthony DeCenzo (Hibbing, Minn.) and Blake Doerring (Chanhassen, Minn.) ... Vermont's last trip to Minnesota came during the 2010 NCAA Regional, when it fell 3-2 to Wisconsin at the Xcel Energy Center in nearby St. Paul ... The Catamounts' next win will be the 700th in program history.