When the 2012-13 Gophers men's hockey schedule was released, a couple of games stood out. Sunday night’s bout against Boston College was one of them.
But No. 4 Minnesota made easy work of the top-ranked Eagles, beating them 8-1 Mariucci Arena.
“It’s unbelievable,” goaltender Adam Wilcox said. “I know the whole hockey world was watching tonight, and now when they look at it and see 'Gophers 8-1,' that puts our name on the board.”
Boston College ended Minnesota’s 2011-12 season in the Frozen Four and went on to win the national title.
“They kind of took it to us,” forward Nick Bjugstad said of last year’s loss. “I think it was a pretty big stage tonight.”
Minnesota (13-3-3, 6-3-3 WCHA) had an adequate record during the first half of this season. But head coach Don Lucia had said the Gophers needed their top-level scorers to play better.
That happened Sunday.
The Gophers’ top line accounted for all three of their goals in the first period. Bjugstad's two goals bookended a score by Kyle Rau.
“It’s nice to see Bjugstad with a smile on his face after the game,” Lucia said. “I thought that [the top line] set the tone. … Those are a few of the guys that had to start to elevate their play for us to go to another level as a team.”
Bjugstad's scores were about as different as two goals in hockey can be. He opened the scoring by swatting at an Erik Haula shot that Eagles goaltender Parker Milner dropped. Milner's backward momentum, combined Bjugstad, pushed Milner and the puck behind the goal line.
The goal was reviewed but stood.
“It was early, so we just wanted to crash the net right away,” Bjugstad said. “Haula made a nice shot and [I] just went to the net."
Bjugstad scored the Gophers' third goal by corralling the puck at center ice and then dangling around Eagles’ defenseman Colin Sullivan before shooting a backhander past Milner.
Despite the lopsided score, the game was fairly even in the first period and continued that way in the second. But the Gophers kept scoring while shutting out the Eagles.
Nate Condon increased Minnesota's lead to 4-0 midway through the second. The goal stymied some momentum that the Eagles had created in the period.
With less than a minute remaining in the second stanza, Michael Sit clocked Sam Warning. Sit drew a five-minute major and game misconduct for contact to the head.
The power play time carried over into the third period, when Schmidt lit the lamp at the 2:22 mark. Minnesota went 4-for-8 with the extra man Sunday.
After the major expired, Minnesota kept its foot on the gas. Seth Ambroz tipped a shot by Ben Marshall past Milner, causing Boston College to switch goaltenders.
Kyle Rau welcomed new goaltender Brian Billett two minutes later with the Gophers’ seventh goal.
Boston College scored on a 5-on-3 power play, but the Gophers answered it immediately with a breakaway goal by Sam Warning. Wilcox had the lone assist on Warning’s shorthanded goal.
Wilcox, who finished with 32 saves, deferred credit to his teammates.
“It’s nice to have the [defense] and forwards pumping in goals,” Wilcox said. “It definitely gives me a little support and confidence.”
The Gophers defeated Air Force 4-0 on Saturday. They finished the Mariucci Classic with a 2-0 record. Both Boston College and Air Force went 1-1 with wins over Alabama-Huntsville.
The all-tournament team was an all-Gophers one — Wilcox, Bjugstad, Rau, Haula, Nate Schmidt and Jake Parenteau took home the honors. Wilcox was named tournament MVP.
Haula left the game with an injury. Lucia said he would be evaluated more Monday and did not give more details.
York gets 925
With a win over Alabama-Huntsville on Saturday, Boston College head coach Jerry York became the winningest head coach in college hockey with 925 wins.
Few spectators watched the high-powered Eagles beat their inferior opponent, but before Sunday's game, York received a standing ovation from a capacity crowd at Mariucci.
“It was unexpected and it was a very classy gesture,” York said after Sunday’s game.
The sledding doesn't get any easier for the Gophers. Minnesota will take on No. 3 Notre Dame on Jan. 8 at Mariucci Arena.
Mike Reilly will return from the World Juniors tournament Jan. 7, but Lucia said he does not expect to play him against Notre Dame.
Lucia’s son, Mario, plays for the Irish but will also be returning from Ufa, Russia, the day before the game.