The No. 4 Gopher men’s hockey program completed the first half of its 100th season in perfect fashion on Wednesday night, improving to 8-0-0 with a 4-0 win at No. 5 Michigan. Minnesota has not trailed an opponent in the first half of the 2020-21 campaign.
With eight-straight wins to open the season, Minnesota has matched its best start since 1987-88 and has now earned four-straight, two-game series sweeps for the first time since the 2006-07 campaign. The Maroon & Gold have actually won 10-straight games dating back to last year – the program’s longest winning streak since claiming 11-straight games during the 1995-96 season.
A night after earning his first win against his former team (and adding his first career point), Jack LaFontaine (8-0-0) secured his second shutout of the season with another stellar performance in net. The senior alternate captain matched his season-high with 34 saves on 34 shots to pick up his NCAA-best eighth win of the year. With 10-straight wins dating back to last season, LaFontaine has allowed two goals or fewer in each of his last 13 starts. Strauss Mann (5-5-0) took the loss for Michigan, making 13 saves on 17 shots in 27:05 of work. Erik Portillo made 17 saves in a relief appearance.
Minnesota (8-0-0 overall, 8-0-0-0-0-0 Big Ten) increased its overall scoring margin to 27-8 on the year and 11-2 in the first period after opening the game with a pair of tallies in the opening stanza. Scott Reedy scored 4:24 into the contest to move into a tie for the national scoring lead with his sixth of the year before Sammy Walker picked up a much-needed power-play goal at 15:56.
The second period was more of the same as Jaxon Nelson added a power-play goal at 6:43 before Mike Koster added the fourth and final goal of the night 22 seconds later with his first career goal at 7:05.
Eight Gophers tallied points in the series finale with Reedy (one goal, one assist) and Sampo Ranta (two assists) leading the way. Ben Meyers added an assist to match his career-long point streak at six games and has now recorded points in seven of eight games this year.
For the first time this year, Minnesota tied its opponent in shots on goal at 34-34 while the Gophers power-play units went 2-for-4 (scoring on its first two chances of the night). The penalty kill remained unblemished on the season, going 1-for-1 in the series finale to improve to 17-for-17 on the season (tied for the best in the nation).
Minnesota has now completed the first segment of its 2020-21 schedule. The Big Ten Conference will announce the remainder of the schedule at a later date.
Quotes from Laffer
“I’m super proud of my team right now, I’m probably the luckiest goalie in the entire country,” LaFontaine said. “We’ve got four lines…we can go all night long. We’re building something special here.”
Minnesota’s No. 4 ranking is its highest position in the national polls since Nov. 6, 2017…the Gophers are 12-0-0 against Michigan since the start of the 2000-01 season when both teams are ranked in the top 10…Minnesota has allowed two goals or fewer in each of its first eight games for the first time since 1939-40 (the Gophers allowed two goals or fewer for the first 16 games before going 18-0-0 for the year)…Minnesota has now played on five different days of the week this season (excluding Saturday and Sunday).
(info and photo courtesy of Gopher Sports)