Gophers shutout Beavers, 3-0

On Friday, the Gophers looked like a team in a close race for a WCHA title. Minnesota dominated the Bemidji State Beavers from the first whistle, winning 3-0 over their in-state foe. Assistant captain Zach Budish netted two goals while Kent Patterson earned his seventh shutout of the season.

After getting swept last weekend in Denver, the Gophers needed a strong start to the series if they wanted to hold onto their WCHA lead.

"Well it was good from the drop of the puck," said Don Lucia about the win. "I was really pleased with the way our guys responded after a tough week last week. We had a good week of preparation. Our guys were really dialed into the details of what we had to do to be successful tonight."

The Gophers came out flying in the first period and earned a goal just a minute into the game. Zach Budish planted himself in front of the Beavers' net and tipped in a Mark Alt slapshot from the point to give Minnesota a 1-0 lead at 01:00 of the first.

After some tough defense by the Gophers, the Maroon and Gold got on the board again as Nick Bjugstad streaked past three defenders and put on a shot on net that was cleaned up by Budish who slammed the puck home with ease for his second of the night at 09:13.

"Zach's got good hands and he's moving really well right now," said Lucia. "He's playing his best hockey at a critical time for us."

The period ended with a 2-0 edge for Minnesota who was outshooting the Beavers 14-2. Kent Patterson was back to his usual form when he was forced to make stops, including an amazing kick save on a redirection in the first.

With a two-goal lead heading into the second, the Gophers needed to score again to put the game out of reach. Bjugstad did just that on the powerplay after Erik Haula fed Kyle Rau who easily slid the puck to Bjugstad. The Blaine (Minn.) native took his time and then snapped the puck into the top of the net for his 22nd goal of the season. The Gopher offense kept up the pressure throughout the second and third period, finishing the game with 36 shots on net.

The three-goal lead was plenty for a Gopher defense that allowed just 13 shots on net and didn't tally a single penalty on the night. Minnesota's play in the neutral zone shut down the Beavers attack the entire evening, not allowing Bemidji to gain the zone and have sustained pressure offensively. When Patterson did have to face shots, he was calm and didn't allow big rebounds that the Beavers could have capitalized on.

"Kent played great in net," said Budish. "Kent saw the puck well and covered up pretty much every rebound."

With the victory, the Gophers remained on top of the WCHA standings with 32 points. Minnesota-Duluth (31 points) and Denver (30 points) also won their games, making the race for the MacNaughton Cup even more heated down the stretch.

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