Originally posted on Fox Sports North  |  Last updated 10/12/12
MINNEAPOLIS The Gophers men's hockey team insists it doesn't pay attention to the preseason hype placed upon the program. Minnesota doesn't buy into the polls that ranked it as one of the top programs in college hockey after advancing to the Frozen Four last year.Whether or not the Gophers acknowledge all the accolades they earned before the puck dropped for Friday's season opener became irrelevant by the end of the night. Minnesota dispensed of No. 16 Michigan State by a 5-1 final in a dominant performance that showed the Gophers were worthy of that praise."We don't really read into the rankings a whole lot," said junior forward Zach Budish, who had two assists on the night. "Last year, we were picked in the middle of the pack in our own league and we ended up in the national semifinals. Preseason rankings really don't mean a whole lot to us. We've played one game. We're just taking it day by day and going from there."It didn't take long for the Gophers to light up the brand new Mariucci Arena scoreboard as sophomore defenseman Ben Marshall beat Spartans goalie Will Yanakeff for an early 1-0 lead. Just over two minutes later, junior forward Nick Bjugstad made it 2-0 after taking a pass from freshman Mike Reilly and collecting it off his skate. The goal came just seconds after an interference penalty on Reilly expired. As he exited the penalty box, Reilly found the puck and hit an open Bjugstad."A good pass by him. I just kind of put it on net," Bjugstad said. "I didn't have much time. The guy was on me. Luckily, he was coming out of the box and it was a good little break for all of us. Minnesota added to its lead with a goal later in the first by sophomore Christian Isackson on an assist from Bjugstad. After taking a 3-0 advantage into the first intermission, Minnesota added to its lead on Erik Haula's first goal of the season. By the time Travis Boyd scored midway through the third period to push the lead to 5-0, the Gophers' statement had already been made. Minnesota got scoring from all over, including three sophomores. The Gophers also got solid goaltending from Michael Shibrowski, the junior from Andover who made his first start for Minnesota after playing just 20 total minutes last season. Shibrowski stopped 25 of the 26 shots he faced, allowing only one goal late in the third period to Spartans sophomore Tanner Sorenson."I thought Mike did a good job in net. That was probably what I was most anxious to see," said Gophers coach Don Lucia. " He made a couple big saves, and I thought he looked comfortable in net all game long."While Shibrowksi was solid in net, he had plenty of help from his defensemen in front of him. Michigan State had just 26 shots on goal, while Minnesota peppered Yanakeff with 42 shots. The Spartans failed to capitalize on all three of their power plays, while the Gophers were 1-for-2, with Boyd's goal coming on a 5-on-3 advantage in the third.These same two teams faced off twice last year in East Lansing. The Spartans won the first game 4-3 while the Gophers salvaged a tie in the second game of the series. On Friday at Mariucci Arena, Minnesota showed early on that it's a different team than the one that traveled to play the Spartans a year ago."Obviously last season we played these guys and they took it to us," Bjugstad said. "That was sitting in the back of our head as well."While the Gophers made an early-season statement with Friday's win, they also reversed a curse that plagued them for the latter half of last year. For whatever reason, Minnesota struggled to win games on Friday nights. Eight of the Gophers' regular-season losses came on Fridays, including three straight Friday nights in November.One game into the 2012-13 season, the Gophers already have a Friday night victory."Friday night games weren't our biggest thing last year," Bjugstad said. "We're trying to change that trend."Of course, one game is a very small sample size, and the Gophers know that. But on the opening night of the college hockey season, Minnesota looked as if it was worthy of the preseason hype.Even if the Gophers won't admit it."As opposed to last year, we kind of had a chip on our shoulder from the last season," Bjugstad said. "This season, we kind of got some preseason glory, which sometimes can't always be the best thing. But we're just trying not to let it get to our head and not focus on that, just play our game and play hard every night."Follow Tyler Mason on Twitter.
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