Brawl positions Sacchetti to be Gophers heroNico Sacchetti called his game-winning goal on Friday a fluke. Actually, there was nothing quirky about the junior winger's shot. The puck's bounce was fortunate, but what was odd about the goal was that Sacchetti was on the ice for the power play at all.
By: Roman Augustoviz, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) / (MCT)
Nico Sacchetti called his game-winning goal on Friday a fluke.
Actually, there was nothing quirky about the junior winger's shot. It was perfect, flying into the top of the North Dakota net.
The puck's bounce was fortunate, but not that lucky. He was in a good spot. What was odd was Sacchetti being on the ice for a power play.
His first power-play goal - and third goal of the season - at 4 minutes, 45 seconds of the third period gave the Gophers a 3-2 victory over WCHA co-leader North Dakota at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
"There was a big scrum at the end of the second period, so a lot of guys were in the box for us," Sacchetti said.
Eight total, four per side, most sitting four minutes, and that played havoc with the Gophers' line combinations.
"I don't normally play power play," Sacchetti said. "I just kind of got tossed out there. I was lucky enough -- [defenseman Aaron] Ness took a shot from the point. I was on my off hand, [but] the goalie kicked it right to me. The whole top of the net was open."
Sacchetti found it.
"Nico can shoot," Gophers coach Don Lucia said. "For Nico, it's just get more pucks to the net. But he can shoot as well as anyone on our team."
Sacchetti had two shots Friday, giving him 21 in 19 games.
The Fighting Sioux started the second half of conference play unbeaten in their past nine games (8-0-1) and winners of seven in a row. Those streaks are history now.
"I knew who their big shooters are," said Patterson, who made 35 saves, "so I made sure I could see the puck at all times. When I can see the puck, I stop it."
The Gophers (10-8-3, 7-6-2) took a 2-0 lead in the first period on goals by Mike Hoeffel and Jake Hansen.
No. 2 North Dakota (16-6-2, 11-4) got within 2-1 in the second period on center Brad Malone's power-play goal at 13:54 on his own rebound. The Sioux outshot the Gophers 16-8 in the period.
The middle period ended with a brawl in front of the benches. Malone's hard check of Gophers defenseman Kevin Wehrs into the endboards behind his own net touched off the sparring, pushing and shoving.
Jason Gregoire, out the past seven games for the Sioux because of an upper-body injury, tied the score at 91 seconds of the third period on the power play. Sacchetti answered three minutes later.
"It's a huge win," Sacchetti said. "They are Number 1." Or were, Minnesota Duluth beat Wisconsin on Friday to move into a tie with North Dakota for first place in the WCHA.
"If you want to be the best," Sacchetti said, "you've got to beat the best."
This was the Sioux's first loss this season to an unranked team.
- Gophers goalie Alex Kangas had successful surgery on his left hip Friday to repair a labrum tear and shave bone spurs.
- U freshman winger Max Gardiner has an undisclosed injury and did not make the trip to Grand Forks.
- Mother Nature helped with the "white-out" at the arena this weekend; everyone was asked to wear white. It snowed most of the day on Friday, making the Gophers feel at home.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.