Black Friday special as Gophers blast past Fighting Hawks
Playing their historical rivals in an intimidating atmosphere, the Minnesota Gophers took the crowd out early and coasted to a 5-1 win at North Dakota on Friday, solving the series-opener problems that had plagued them in November.
GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- As a regional center in the northern Red River Valley, countless folks flock to Grand Forks looking for great deals on Black Friday. And on Black Friday evening, Nov. 26, the Minnesota Gophers found a pretty good deal for themselves as well.
Plagued by blown leads on Friday nights recently, the Gophers put those troubles behind them, building a big lead and holding off a brief attempt at a third period North Dakota rally for a 5-1 win in the opener of the two-game series between these historic neighborhood rivals
The Gophers got goals from Bryce Brodzinski, Jack Perbix and Ryan Johnson to build a 3-0 lead after 40 minutes, and quelled the momentum after the Fighting Hawks got a puck past goalie Jack LaFontaine early in the third period. Chaz Lucius added an empty-net goal with just over four minutes to play, and Brodzinski got his second of the game in the closing minutes.
"We knew their first 10 minutes they just come full attack, three guys on the forecheck and they try to turn the first 10 minutes into their own little game, so we kind of took it to them and we knew that was coming," said forward Blake McLaughlin, who assisted on both of Brodzinski's goals. "We knew we needed to out-work them and bring the storm to them."
LaFontaine finished with 21 saves as the Gophers improved to 9-6-0. While it remains considerably early in the season to think about NCAA playoff positioning, and there were no conference points on the line, the win was considerably important for a Gophers team that has now returned to full health and needed only to answer for the Friday night struggles.
Grant Cruikshank, who had missed the previous six games with a lower body injury, returned to the lineup and had an assist. Lucius had missed six games with an upper body injury and returned to the lineup the weekend before Thanksgiving for a split with Penn State.
In the opening 20 minutes, the Gophers played about as close to a perfect road period as you will find. They killed one North Dakota penalty without allowing a shot, scored on their first power play, and kept North Dakota goalie Zach Driscoll busy, out-shooting the Hawks 14-4. The goal came in the waning seconds of the man-advantage, as a result of Brodzinski and McLaughlin attacking the crease after the North Dakota goalie made the initial save, with Brodzinzki popping the loose puck over Driscoll’s right leg pad.
"There were three guys on that side, so I figured the puck had to be over there," said Brodzinski, who now leads the Gophers with eight goals. "I just sort of threw my stick in there and it kind of trickled over and sat an inch over the line. It's not a pretty one, but it's a goal we'll take."
Like you must do if you want to win on the road in a place like the hostile environment that is Ralph Engelstad Arena -- complete with dead gophers thrown on the ice, which has been a hallmark of this rivalry for decades -- the Gophers did not sit on their lead in the second.
They made it 2-0 when Perbix pounced on a miscue by Driscoll. The goalie came out of the net to swat away a sliding puck and missed, allowing Perbix to slip a shot into the empty net. When Johnson shot a puck from just inside the blue line that deflected off North Dakota’s Nick Portz and past Driscoll, the visitors took considerable steam out of the sold-out building.
"It was nice because we kept it quiet for pretty much two periods," said Gophers coach Bob Motzko. "Then we took the penalties and they got one at the end ... It was a strong game for us. Best game for our defensemen all year. (LaFontaine) was as strong as he can be, and it's a good win for us."
Minnesota Gophers coach Bob Motzko, forward Blake McLaughlin and forward Bryce Brodzinski spoke to The Rink Live following their 5-1 win at North Dakota on Friday, Nov. 26, 2021.
The Gophers killed more than 85 seconds of 5-on-3 power play early in the third period, but North Dakota got one back at even strength and got some momentum going, only to have it derailed by a major penalty. Fighting Hawks coach Brad Berry pulled Driscoll with just under five minutes left, only to see the Gophers add two more goals.
"Our Fridays obviously haven't been very good this year and we're not taking that lightly," Brodzinski said. "That's something that we talk about on film. It starts on Monday, coming to practice hard each day."
Driscoll finished with 27 saves for the Hawks, who fell to 9-5-0.
The series concludes at 6 p.m .Saturday.
Minnesota 5, North Dakota 1
North Dakota 0-0-1—1
First period — 1. MIN, Bryce Brodzinski 7 (Blake McLaughlin), 13:15, (pp). Penalties — Jackson LaCombe, MIN (boarding), 9:35; Chris Jandric, UND (slashing), 11:20; Cooper Moore, UND (hooking), 16:47.
Second period — 2. MIN, Jack Perbix 2 (Rhett Pitlick, Matt Staudacher), 7:30. 3. MIN, Ryan Johnson 2 (Mike Koster, Grant Cruikshank), 11:36. Penalties — Bench (served by Griffin Ness), UND (too many men), 4:40; Pitlick, MIN (tripping), 7:45.
Third period — 4. UND, Riese Gaber 7 (Gavin Hain, Mark Senden), 3:41. 5. MIN, Chaz Lucius 2 (Matthew Knies, Meyers), 15:39, (en). 6. MIN, Brodzinski 8 (McLaughlin), 18:03. Penalties — Matthew Knies, MIN (interference), 0:52; Johnson, MIN (hooking), 1:27; Nick Portz, UND (hooking), 5:13, Ben Meyers, MIN (unsportsmanlike conduct), 6:12; Tyler Kleven, UND (5-head contact), 6:12.
Shots on goal — MIN 14-7-11—32; UND 4-9-9—22. Goalies — Jack LaFontaine, MIN (22 shots-21 saves); Zach Driscoll, UND (32-27). Power plays — MIN 1-of-5, UND 0-of-4. Referees — Nick Krebsbach, Ryan Hersey. Linesmen — Justin Hills, Tyler Liffrig. Att. — 11,624.