After losing a shootout Friday night against Boston College, there was reason to wonder how Minnesota would respond.
"I've talked to other coaches (who have shootouts) in their league play about the dynamics of that and there is a lag with shootouts," said University of Minnesota head coach Don Lucia on Friday. "When you lose a shootout, you feel like you lose a game and when you win a shootout you feel like you win a game. In league play there is points involved and in this there is not."
Turns out the answer was "make the Eagles pay early and often."
The top-ranked Gophers scored four times in the first period Sunday afternoon and never looked back. Six different players scored for the third time in six games this season, including four Minnesota defensemen Sunday, and Adam Wilcox (Tampa Bay Lightning draft pick) made 31 saves as the Gophers (5-0-1) defeated #5 Boston College 6-1.
"It was great going into the second period like that and we had the momentum going throughout the game like that," Gopher defenseman Mike Reilly (Columbus Blue Jackets) said after the game.
Despite the one-sided nature of the score, the game was much closer. The two teams each had 32 shots in the game and even had the same amount in all period. Minnesota, however, made the most of its chances early.
Nate Condon (Colorado Avalanche), snakebitten in Friday's 3-3 tie, broke open the scoring 4:14 into the game. Justin Kloos beat Ryan Fitzgerald (Boston Bruins) to the puck and created an odd-man rush that Condon took advantage; beating Boston College goaltender Brian Billett.
Condon was joined by Seth Ambroz scoring on a rebound just 56 seconds later to make 2-0. Then it was the defensemen getting into the act. Reilly added his
second third of the year on a beautiful shot that beat Billett high while Brady Skjei (New York Rangers) scored his first goal in 40 games on a shot from the top of the slot.
It wasn't the number of chances Minnesota had in the first period. Just the quality of them.
"The 4 goal first period was clearly the catalyst to the game," said Eagles head coach Jerry York, whose his team dropped to 2-2-1. "Five chances they had in that period, but the chances were unbelievable chances. There was absolutely no chance - it was shelf down, off the crossbar - they earned it."
Boston College would make it 4-1 when freshman Evan Richardson got his first BC career goal 6:02 into the second. That was it for the Eagles, who couldn't get a shot past Wilcox. The sophomore goalie made several spectacular saves in the second period which kept the Gopher lead. Unlike Friday, there as no three goals in 71 seconds.
Freshmen defensemen Michael Brodzinski (San Jose Sharks) and Jake Bischoff (New York Islanders) each lit the lamp in the third period to put Minnesota ahead for good.
"You get a 4-0 lead, you should feel pretty good. We also know that BC has some offensive ability so I don't know if I felt really safe until we got that fifth goal in the third period," said Lucia. " I think the game was closer than the score."
It was Bischoff's first collegiate goal, which came on an afternoon where he wasn't guaranteed to play. The Grand Rapids, MN native got hurt on Thursday and tested himself out in warm-ups before playing. With senior defenseman Jake Parenteau still out after suffering an injury in the first period of Friday's tie, having six defensemen really helped Minnesota shut down a dangerous BC top-six that includes John Gaudreau. The Boston College junior entered Sunday's game tied for the national scoring lead with 12 points in 4 games, but was held to only 2 shots. He also had fewer odd-man rush chances.
For now, the Gophers have the week off before heading to South Bend, Indiana to face Notre Dame on November 8-9. Minnesota hopes to use that time to rest up and heal. Besides Parenteau and Bischoff, Condon missed much of the third period after being hit late by Eagles defenseman Michael Matheson (Florida Panthers).
They also hope to move on and not dwell on the 5-0-1 start.
"We close a chapter in October. You put those wins in the bank and hope they help come the end," Lucia said. "Hopefully we continue to learn and grow as a team."
Still, at the end of the day Minnesota is in good shape after losing five juniors early in the offseason. The Gophers end the opening month without a loss and with a five goal win over a Boston College squad that scored nine goals against Wisconsin last week. If the Gophers aren't the best team in the country then they are the best one Jerry York, whose team played RPI, Michigan, Wisconsin and now Minnesota, has seen this year.
"They're the best team we've played," he said. "There are some good teams, but I think this is the best team. They make good plays and the goaltender...it's a pretty good club."
-With two assists, Sam Warning joined Gaudreau and Northeastern forward Kevin Roy (Anaheim Ducks) with 12 points.
-Minnesota had a pair of milestones Sunday. Warning hit 50 points as a Gopher while Condon had his 50th career assist on Brodzinski's goal.
-Every Gopher freshman that has played at least one game has scored a goal.
-Attendance at Mariucci Arena was announced as 9,723.
-Hockey East still won the inaugural Hockey East-Big Ten challenge despite the win by Minnesota. Over the 13 games played in the last two weeks, the final score was 18-12 in favor of Hockey East. Teams received three points for a road win and two points for a home win. They received one point for a tie.
-York was still happy with how his club (and Billett, who played all 60 minutes) played throughout the game despite the score.
-Boston College plays Northeastern in a home-and-home series next Friday and Saturday (Nov. 1-2). The Eagles host its Northeastern at Conte Forum before traveling across town Saturday.
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Nathan Wells is a college hockey columnist for SB Nation and College Hockey News. You can also follow him on Twitter -- Follow @gopherstate