For as many cliches that there are in hockey, none hold a candle to the one that defense and a hot goaltender can win a team championships.
Or at least counter a large shot differential to put a team in position for an upset before falling overtime.
Kyle Rau (Florida Panthers prospect) scored his NCAA-leading 7th game winning goal with 6:42 remaining in overtime Friday night to give Minnesota (25-7-5) a 2-1 victory over Bemidji State. The Beavers overcame a 51-18 shot differential with 49 saves by Andrew Walsh to tie the game with 38.0 seconds left in regulation and send it to the extra session.
"That's just the way it is. It's playoff hockey," Bemidji State (6-21-8) head coach Tom Serratore said about the game. "It stings but you have to wipe it from your memory bank and go compete for 60 minutes tomorrow."
Following a scoreless first period where Minnesota out-shot the Beavers 14-3, Ben Marshall (Detroit Red Wings) finally got the Gophers on the board 6:56 into the second period. The sophomore was set up by Rau in the high slot and beat Walsh on one knee to make it 1-0 on his 7th goal of the season.
It snapped a stretch of play where Walsh frustrated the Gophers by making saves and allowing few rebounds in front of the net.
"(Walsh) was really good tonight," Minnesota head coach Don Lucia said about the Bemidji State goaltender. "He was on. We touched on that Bemidji is obviously a well coached team and they stuck to how they wanted to play tonight and keep it close."
The Gophers continued to create offensive chances in a quick paced game that saw only 2 penalties, but not before the Beavers had a few chances of their own. BSU was at its best when countering their opponent's aggression and Wilcox, who made 17 saves Friday, stopped a pair of breakaways from Ben Kinne and Jordan George to match Walsh and keep Minnesota's lead.
However, their inability to make it a two-goal game bit the Gophers in the butt in the game's final minute. After the puck took a strange bounce off the boards, through Helgeson's legs in front of the net and to Orban, the senior from Lethbridge, Alberta went around to Wilcox to his right and backhanded the puck over him to quiet the announced crowd of 9,954.
Bemidji State continued to press the Minnesota defense in the extra period with Cory Ward almost pulling off the upset for the visiting Beavers. But despite the offensive outpour from BSU - they had 7 of their 18 shots in OT - the Gophers refused to get down on themselves.
"No negativity," Marshall stated. "The whole game we were outplaying them."
They were finally rewarded when Rau, who prior to this had five assists and zero goals against Bemidji State, buried the rebound from a Nate Schmidt shot.
Still, it goes back to playing a hot goaltender on a six-win team. Whether winning their fourth straight game (third against the Beavers) was relief or a lesson the Gophers can take with them in the postseason, that old cliche still rings true.
"We just talked about how this is part of it this time of the year," Lucia said. "Quinnipiac got beat, Miami got beat and it's a fine line. There's not much difference and the goaltender can be the equalizer."
With the win, the Gophers lead Bemidji State 1-0 in the best-of-3 WCHA first round series at Mariucci Arena. The two teams play again tomorrow night at 7 p.m. CT. Game #2 will be broadcast on
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