MINNEAPOLIS- For the first time all season Minnesota felt like it played like the team which finished last year as the national runners-up.
It's no coincidence that feeling comes following a 5-0 shutout victory Friday against a Notre Dame team which came into Mariucci Arena on a six game unbeaten streak where the home team scored early and often.
"I started to feel like myself tonight, kind of back to where I was last year," said Minnesota junior goaltender Adam Wilcox (Tampa Bay Lightning draft pick). "I think I just kind of needed to get a little more balance, a little more calm and I was working on that in practice and had a good week in practice.
"It carried over to the game and I think our team played very well."
Five different players scored for the Gophers against Notre Dame (5-3-1, 1-0-1 Hockey East). Freshman Leon Bristedt was one, getting his first collegiate goal in the second period, while freshman D Jack Glover (Winnipeg Jets) earned his first collegiate point assisting on Mike Reilly' (Columbus Blue Jackets) goal.
Twelve had at least one point as the team out-shot the Fighting Irish 44-20 and had contributions offensively from all four lines.
"We were able to get some pucks behind the D and I thought we did a good job controlling the puck in the offensive zone much more effectively than we had been. It's something we've worked on and we've talked about too many one and dones on the attack," head coach Don Lucia said. "I think it was off the rush and grinding away and wearing their team down."
Wilcox, meanwhile, made 20 saves, including one a two on none chance in the first period, for his second shutout of the year and ninth total. The South St. Paul, MN passed Adam Hauser for sole possession of second place on the all-time shutout list. Only Kellen Briggs (2003-2007) has more with 13.
Justin Kloos got Minnesota (6-1-0, 0-0-0-0 Big Ten) on the board 2:09 into the game on the power play. Coming off a hat trick in his previous game, the sophomore forward banked Kyle Rau's (Florida Panthers) pass off his skate to his stick and past Notre Dame freshman goaltender Cal Petersen for Kloos' team-leading sixth goal of the year.
The Fighting Irish were making its first road trip of the year and faced a barrage of shots in the first period, getting out-shot 18-6, and hanging on at times such as Jake Bischoff (New York Islanders) having a goal disallowed 3:20 into the second.
Still, Notre Dame was making the most of the chances it had short of Wilcox. Steven Fogarty (New York Rangers) came close with a rebound. Mario Lucia (Minnesota Wild), Don's son who is a junior for the Fighting Irish, nearly set up another on a three on one opportunity. However, the Gophers were able to build upon the lead when Bristedt snapped a wrist shot on an odd man rush that knocked off the water bottle and quelled momentum.
"I needed that one. I've been struggling a little bit in the beginning and I had a couple chances before, but to get the first one (goal) in here felt pretty good," the Stockholm, Sweden native said about his tally.
"It's a great feeling. I would say that the first goal is always the hardest and I got the first goal so I have something to build on."
Mike Reilly and Sam Warning, who had several chances all night, doubled Minnesota's lead to 4-0 with two goals 53 seconds apart in the third period. The former was the first non-empty net goal of the year by the blue line, which was playing Friday without junior Brady Skjei (New York Rangers).
Lucia was pleased with their performance on both ends of the ice against the Irish.
"Like anything there were a couple mistakes," he said. "We had some pinches and we fell over one time on a 2 on 0, but I thought the young guys battled particularly good.We got a really good game out of Jake Bischoff tonight. It was nice to see a couple of our defensemen chip in a couple goals, we could have had a third if one wasn't called back."
Senior defenseman Ben Marshall (Detroit Red Wings) completed the Gophers' scoring with a shot from the point with 2:09 remaining.
"We were working the whole game. It's not like we had a lot of ups and downs like we had the last couple weeks," Wilcox said.
"I think once we tighten it up we'll be a very good team."
Minnesota and Notre Dame will complete the two-game series Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m CT. ESPNU will broadcast the game from Mariucci Arena. It will be available to stream on Watch ESPN.
Nathan Wells is a college hockey columnist for SB Nation. You can also follow him on Twitter -- Follow @gopherstate