MINNEAPOLIS - Kyle Rau locked up his first career hat trick and Nate Schmidt posted a career-high four assists as the No. 1 Minnesota men's hockey program earned a decisive 7-1 win over Alaska Anchorage on Saturday night, picking up the Gophers' first Western Collegiate Hockey Association sweep of the season in the process.
With Minnesota's first hat trick since Nick Bjugstad found the net three times against St. Cloud State in a 5-0 win on Nov. 19, 2011, Rau ended Bjugstad's one-day reign as Minnesota's leading goal scorer on Saturday night against the Seawolves. The sophomore ended the night with 13 scores this season, enough to move into a tie for second in the league this year - one off the WCHA lead.
After Seth Ambroz put the Gophers (16-3-3 overall, 8-3-3 WCHA) up 1-0 at 9:55, Rau's first goal proved to be the game winner - Rau's fifth deciding goal and the second most in the NCAA this season. Following the only goal of the night by the Seawolves (3-13-4, 1-12-3) and Zach Budish's seventh goal of the season, Rau would rattle off another pair of goals before Nate Condon sealed the win with his seventh and eighth goals of the season midway through the third period.
Schmidt, meanwhile, was one of five Gophers to record multiple points in the win and now leads all NCAA defensemen with 22 points this season and 19 assists. The junior found great chemistry with sophomore Sam Warning on Saturday night - the duo tallied assists together on the Gophers' third, fourth and sixth goals in the win. Warning's three assist were also a career high.
The win also extended Minnesota's unbeaten streak to eight games while the Gophers have now allowed a goal or less in four of their last five. The team's first WCHA sweep of the season and third overall in 2012-13 benefitted from the WCHA's top special teams units. Minnesota went 2-for-5 on the power play on Saturday to end the weekend at 5-for-11 while the penalty kill went 3-for-3 on Saturday and 6-for-6 in the sweep. The league's top defense also limited the Seawolves to just 13 shots on Saturday, compared 31 by the Gophers, and ended the weekend with just 31 shots against total.
Adam Wilcox improved to a WCHA best 15-2-3 with Saturday's 10-save performance. Michael Shibrowski closed out the final 7:53 of play for the Gophers and made two saves while Rob Gunderson made 24 saves in the loss for Alaska Anchorage.
Minnesota returns to action next weekend at Mariucci Arena, hosting WCHA rival North Dakota for the final time in the regular season as members of the WCHA. Friday's series opener is set for a 7 p.m. start while Saturday's finale will begin at 5 p.m. as part of Hockey Day Minnesota. Both games will be broadcast on FOX Sports North as well as 1500 ESPN.