Originally written on Goon's World  |  Last updated 1/15/12
Grand Forks, ND – The University of North Dakota and the University of Minnesota have had some epic battles over the years, and the opening game of this series was no different as UND gutted out a 2-1 win.

The second game of the series would turn out to be a one that the UND Hockey team will want to wipe from their memory bank as soon as possible.

Saturday night’s game was the last time that UND and UMN will play a regular season WCHA game in Ralph Englestad Arena, due to the formation of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference and the Big Ten Hockey Conference, both teams will leave the WCHA and go their separate ways. It’s unknown at this time when Minnesota will make a return trip to the Ralph Englestad Arena. It could be some time before the two teams play in the Ralph again.

Due to the fact that this was the last regular season WCHA match-up, "ever" between North Dakota and Minnesota, tonight's game should’ve had all of the makings of an instant classic, the game would turn our to be a stinker for the team from North Dakota.

Coming into tonight’s game UND and UMN were teams going in different directions, counting last night’s win against Minnesota UND had gone 10-3-1 in the last 14 games since they were swept by the Gophers at Mariucci Arena back on November 5th, 2011. Even with the loss in tonight’s game UND has still put together a pretty nice run of 10-4-1 in the last fifteen games, so not all is lost for the team from Grand Forks, ND.

The Minnesota Gophers had lost three games in a row coming into tonight's game and had gone 6-7-1 in the last 14 games since sweeping North Dakota in Mariucci Arena. Minnesota would break that three game losing streak tonight with an impressive 6-2 win. What was more impressive with Minnesota’s win tonight was that they only scored one goal on the power play (four even strength and one short handed).

The Gophers would come out during the first period with a lot of jump in their step, the Gophers were connecting on their passes and flying through the neutral zone with speed uncontested as the UND defenders didn’t have an answer for the Gophers speed and at times appeared to be standing around flat footed, watching the Gophers make plays.

The Gophers would easily race to a very comfortable 4-0 lead before the game was even 23 minutes old.

The Gopher’s top line of Kyle Rau, Nick Bjugstad and Zach Budish would lead the charge for the Golden Gophers out of the gate. Rau and Bjugstad would add two more points to their already impressive season stats totals before the first period was over.  While Zach Budish was the only one on the top line to not get any points during tonight’s game, Nick Bjugstad said that, “ Zach Budish played good and I don’t know if he got any points but he still played very well.“ The moral of the story is, if you don't pay attention to the Rau, Bjugstad, Budish line you could be in for a long night.

After getting beat to the puck and losing a lot of physical battles the night before the Gophers appeared to be a different team on Saturday night. Gopher forward Nick Bjugstad said, “that we played physical, we were blocking shots and doing all the things that we needed to do.”

If there is one positive to take out of tonight’s game, it’s UND’s penalty kill. During the regular season series between UMN and UND; UND killed 19/21 of Minnesota’s power play opportunities. That’s not a small feat considering who the Gophers have in their lineup.

The UND bench called a time out at the 18:51 of the second period to settle the young UND team down and it appear to work for a while as UND got two quick goals by Michael Parks and Danny Kristo before Minnesota returned to dismantling UND, as the Gophers added four unanswered goals to the score sheet. Five Minnesota Gophers players would finish the night with two points.  All around it was not a good night for North Dakota as they were beat to the loose puck all night long and just seemed to be a step off and had no answer to the Gophers transition game.  
After the game UND head coach Dave Hakstol was asked what his team did differently today. Hakstol said “I thought we were a step slow, I noticed that the way our team was playing, it was pretty evident early on, we weren’t sharp with pucks in terms of completing passes and pushing pucks up ice and the simple things as far as even dumping pucks to good areas that we could fore-check, we just weren’t sharp.”

Box Score

Cross Posted at INSIDE HOCKEY...
Related articles
  • Minnesota routs North Dakota 6-2 (mysanantonio.com)
  • UND vs. UMN series notes (mvn.com)
  • North Dakota edges Minnesota 2-1 (mvn.com)

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