After back-to-back games against elite college hockey programs, the Gophers' series with Western Collegiate Hockey Association cellar dweller Alaska-Anchorage would be a walk in the park, right?
Minnesota needed two third-period goals Friday to overcome a one-goal deficit and beat the Seawolves 4-3 at Mariucci Arena.
The Gophers (15-3-3, 7-3-3 WCHA) scored both goals on a power play resulting from a five-minute major penalty.
“You have got to find a way to win some nights,” head coach Don Lucia said. “And tonight we did.”
Nick Bjugstad and Ben Marshall scored for the Gophers after the Seawolves' Tyler Currier checked Zach Budish from behind. Alaska-Anchorage head coach Dave Shyiak said he thought the penalty was too severe.
“I just think the way the game’s going right now, they’re calling [five- and 10-minute majors] too easily,” Shyiak said. “Was it a penalty? Yes, today’s day and age, but I don’t think it’s a five.”
The late-game heroics by Bjugstad and Marshall were necessary because of Minnesota’s sloppy play to open and close the game.
Alaska-Anchorage registered the game's first seven shots and took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission.
"In the first 10 minutes we came out really flat,” Bjugstad said. “We got a hard time in the locker room, which we really deserved.”
Minnesota battled back and took a 2-1 lead in the second period with goals from Kyle Rau and Bjugstad.
After a back and forth first 10 minutes of the third period, the Seawolves scored twice in a four-minute span to take a 3-2 lead.
The No. 1 Gophers looked to be on their heels before Currier's penalty.
Lucia said that before the power play unit took the ice, the message on the bench was that the Gophers needed one goal from each of their power play units.
“I give our guys credit,” Lucia said. “The power play was given an opportunity at the end of the game, and each unit scored a huge goal.”
Bjugstad delivered the goal for the first unit with a blast past Alaska-Anchorage goaltender Rob Gunderson after a nice pass from Nate Schmidt.
“That was definitely a monkey off the back there,” Bjugstad said.
With 51 seconds left in the game, Marshall lit the lamp with another one-time goal, assisted by Mike Reilly.
The same two teams will face off Saturday at Mariucci Arena at 7 p.m. Lucia said there is a possibility Michael Shibrowski will be in net, but he said no final decision had been made.