MINNEAPOLIS – If Justin Fontaine and his Minnesota-Duluth teammates get any quality sleep tonight, they won’t have to worry about Kent Patterson being in their nightmares.
He got that out of the way on the rink.
Patterson was solid in the first two periods, then brought his brick wall to the crease with him in the third, helping the Gophers escape with a 3-2 win over UMD Friday night.
The Bulldogs, who struggled to get anything going in the opening 40 minutes, turned up the heat in the final stanza. A Justin Faulk power play goal cut the Minnesota lead to one with 4:53 to play, but Fontaine and company couldn’t find a way to solve Patterson and push the game to overtime.
But boy, oh boy, did they come close.
Fontaine was robbed twice on the doorstep in the third, including on a chance with 25 seconds left. A rolling puck that he had to settle down gave Patterson enough time to dive across the net and get his glove in the way of the tying goal.
“That was a huge save at the end,” Minnesota coach Don Lucia said. “They had scored a couple power play goals on the night, and you have to have those kind of saves against a good team.”
The Gophers looked more like the No. 2-ranked team in the country than Minnesota-Duluth for the better part of the first and second periods. Minnesota was able to get pucks deep, while keeping UMD from producing any five-on-five offense.
The Bulldogs’ only real chances came on the power play, and most of those opportunities were handled by Patterson and a defensive unit that was playing a man-short after senior Cade Fairchild was lost to a shoulder injury in the first.
“I thought we did a good job, especially after being down to only five guys [on defense] early,” Lucia said. “We’re not a good enough team to have a subpar effort against any team and win.”
Minnesota’s hard work was on display in the middle period, when the Gophers opened up a two-goal lead. Nico Sacchetti scored after a great hustle play to create a turnover as the Bulldogs attempted to carry the puck into the Minnesota zone. Then Jay Barriball, who hadn’t scored in six games, fired a puck that bounced around in front of UMD goalie Kenny Reiter before two Gophers crashing the net caused the puck to deflect off a UMD defenseman and in.
“We finally got a little puck luck,” Lucia said, laughing. Last year, it was Minnesota-Duluth that found themselves with a few goals off Gopher skates en route to a sweep in Minneapolis.
“You can’t control those kinds of things,” Minnesota-Duluth coach Scott Sandelin said. “You can control effort, and I thought our guys came out hard in the third and gave ourselves a chance to win.”
But by the time the Bulldogs were able to put it all together, the two-goal lead and Patterson committing robbery in goal proved to be too much to overcome.
“It was a great time in the game to step up and do what you practice each day in practice,” Patterson said. “We had a great attitude in the locker room, guys were into the game and just doing what the coaches wanted us to do. It definitely feels great.”
Patterson finished with 37 saves, including 16 in the final 20 minutes.
Nick Larson scored the other Gopher goal; Seth Helgeson, Tom Serratore and Jacob Cepis all recorded assists for Minnesota.
Faulk was the only player with multiple points for either team (goal and an assist). Jack Connolly scored his seventh goal of the year, and Fontaine, Mike Connolly and Travis Oleksuk were credited with one assist each.
Game two of the series is tomorrow night at Mariucci Arena.