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MINNEAPOLIS – The No. 2 Minnesota men’s hockey team scored five unanswered goals including four in the third period as the Gophers picked up a 5-1 win over No. 10/11 Denver on Saturday night at Mariucci Arena.
Zach Budish tied a career-high with four points (two goals, two assists) in the win while Erik Haula picked up three assists in Minnesota’s final Western Collegiate Hockey Association regular-season game at Mariucci Arena.For Minnesota (22-7-5 overall, 14-7-5 WCHA), Saturday night started and ended with the Maroon and Gold’s captain. After Scott Mayfield put Denver up 1-0 with a power-play goal at 3:34 of the first period, Budish brought the game back to square midway through the second with his 11th goal of the season at 9:03. Haula and Sam Warning were credited with assists.A tight battle spilled over into the third period, where it ended it being all Gophers. Nick Bjugstad scored the eventual game winner at 9:52 of the final stanza on a power-play goal with assists from Haula and Kyle Rau. Denver (17-11-5, 12-9-5) would then stumble defensively with two goals against in a span of 1:20. Justin Holl made it a two-goal game at 12:24 with his second of the year (assists from Travis Boyd and Budish) before the Gophers captain reciprocated on Warning’s earlier assist at 13:44 – teaming up with Jake Parenteau for Warning’s eighth goal of the season.Budish capped the night with an empty-net goal at 18:55 to conclude the 5-1 win for Minnesota, which outshot the Pioneers 43-32 on the night to move to 5-0-2 this season when tallying 40 or more shots on goal. Haula and senior Seth Helgeson assisted on the final goal – a poignant ending to the game for Helgeson, who was honored in his final regular-season home appearance before the game.In net, Adam Wilcox returned to his winning ways and moved to 21-6-5 in his freshman campaign with the Maroon and Gold. Wilcox made 31 saves and allowed just one goal on Saturday with the win marking his third-straight game with 30 or more saves. Sam Brittain suffered the loss for Denver, making 38 saves to fall to 4-6-0 on the season. Both teams were 1-for-4 on the power play.The Gophers close out one of the most closely contested WCHA seasons ever – and Minnesota’s final campaign in the league — next weekend at Bemidji State.