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BEMIDJI, Minn. – The No. 2 Minnesota men’s hockey team locked up home ice for the opening round of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs with a 4-3 win over Bemidji State on Friday at Sanford Center.
Nick Bjugstad paced the nation’s top offense and power play with a pair of extra-strength goals including the eventual game winner to finish the night with 19 goals on the season including 10 while on the advantage.
Minnesota (23-7-5 overall, 15-7-5 WCHA) claimed one-goal leads twice in game – once in the first and again in the second – only to see the home squad rally in both instances. Ben Marshall opened the night with his sixth goal of the season at 5:09 of the first period after being setup by Nate Condon and Seth Helgeson. After Matt Prapavessis evened the game midway through the first on a delayed Minnesota penalty, Bjugstad would reclaim the lead for Minnesota 2:21 into the second period during a Minnesota power-play. Christian Isackson and Erik Haula setup the Gophers’ second goal as Haula improved to a team-best 43 points this season.
But the Beavers (6-19-8, 5-15-7) refused to go quietly. Cory Ward evened the score at 2-2 with 1:43 to play in the second period and then gave the home team its first lead of the night 2:30 into the third period as Bemidji State went up 3-2.
Then it was the Gophers’ turn to rally.
Justin Holl scored his third goal of the season and second in as many games less than five minutes later at 7:27 when A.J. Michaleson fed the junior for the game-tying score. Bjugstad then added his second power-play goal of the night at 14:54 as Minnesota went on to edge Bemidji State. Nate Schmidt earned an assist on the game winner to snap a five-game point drought for the WCHA’s top scoring defenseman while Kyle Rau’s secondary assist moved Minnesota to 20-1-1 this season when the sophomore tallies a point.
Minnesota, which outshot the Beavers 28-27 on the night, went 2-for-4 on the power play while the Gophers penalty kill was 2-for-2.
Adam Wilcox improved to 22-6-5 with the win – the second most wins in Division I hockey this year. The freshman made 24 saves while Andrew Walsh fell to 5-12-6 on the season with a 24-save performance.
The Gophers wrap up the 2012-13 regular season tomorrow night against the Beavers. A Minnesota win coupled with a St. Cloud State loss to Wisconsin would give the Gophers a share of the MacNaughton Cup as WCHA regular-season champions. North Dakota is currently tied with Minnesota for second in the league, two points behind the Huskies.