Rau's Hat Trick Leads Minnesota Past UAA

MINNEAPOLIS – After having to come from behind two times in Friday's game, the No. 1 Gophers rebounded with an impressive 7-1 win over Alaska Anchorage. Kyle Rau recorded his first hat trick with Minnesota while Nate Schmidt added a career-high four helpers to lift the Gophers to a WCHA series sweep, their first of the season.

Minnesota scored at least two goals in all three periods leading to a lopsided win over the Seawolves, earning four points on the weekend, something the Gophers desperately needed to move up the standings.

"It was a crucial weekend for us to get a couple of points to make sure that heading into this next weekend that we have a little momentum," said Schmidt.

From the drop of the puck, Saturday's matchup felt very different from the previous night. In the first game of the series, UAA got out to a 7-0 edge in shots on net. In the rematch, the Golden Gophers came out swinging, creating chances and beating the Seawolves to open pucks.

"They came out really hard last night and took to us on Friday," said Schmidt. "We wanted to make sure we came out there and eliminated all the surprises early."

The hard work paid off halfway through the first as Seth Ambroz tapped a puck past Rob Gunderson off a Jake Parenteau steal in the UAA zone. With the 1-0 lead, Minnesota didn't let up, working hard in front of the net and drawing a penalty on the Seawolves.

"Our guys came out and played much better and dominated in the first period," said Don Lucia

As they have done all season, Minnesota made the most of the man advantage, scoring on a Rau tip-in from a blistering shot by Schmidt, giving the Gophers a 2-0 cushion 12:00 minutes into the opening frame.

Similar to Friday, the pesky Seawolves wouldn't go away easily. They came out in the second and scored just :37 seconds into the period on a Matt Bailey redirection to make the score 2-1.

Right when it looked as though UAA was getting back in the game, Nate Schmidt fired a perfect cross-ice pass to Sam Warning who fed Zach Budish for an easy goal in front.

"Even when it was 3-1, I thought we still had a chance," said UAA coach Dave Shyiak. "I think we went on the powerplay but the powerplay was not sharp."

Just as the period was about the end with the Gophers up 3-1, Kyle Rau took the puck into the Seawolves' zone and dangled Gunderson for his second goal of the evening. Sam Warning and Schmidt picked up the assists on the tally.

The Gophers continued their route of the Seawolves in the third period as Rau forced a turnover, came into the zone and made another great move, beating Gunderson for the third time, recording his first hat trick wearing the Maroon and Gold.

"It was pretty cool," said Rau of the hat trick. "It was my first one here in college so it's something I will always remember."

Surprisingly, with a 5-1 lead Minnesota wasn't done scoring. After the Seawolves took another penalty, Nate Condon let a shot go from the slot that got tipped in front and fluttered up and over Gunderson, into the net. Warning earned his third assist of the night while Schmidt picked up his fourth of the game.

"I can't say I deserve all the credit," said Schmidt of his four assists. "Kyle Rau, Sam Warning, Nick Bjugstad, those guys made me look good tonight so hats off to those guys."

Under two minutes later, A.J. Michaelson would make the score 7-1 on a great move, beating the goalie five-hole. With a six-goal lead, the Gophers coasted to their 16th win of the season.

Coming off a WCHA sweep, Minnesota now turns their eyes to next weekend as their archrivals, the University of North Dakota, comes to Minneapolis for a two-game series.

"The whole season last year, we played them seven or six times," said Schmidt. "We have a lot of history, a lot of rivalry, with these guys so it's really exciting to have them at our place for the last time that we play them in the WCHA. We're really excited about this next weekend."

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