MINNEAPOLIS - Kyle Rau tallied his seventh game-winning goal - the most in the nation this season - to lead the No. 2 Minnesota men's hockey program to a 2-1 overtime victory over Bemidji State in the first game of a best-of-three series to open the 2013 WCHA playoffs.
The Gophers (25-7-5 overall) improved to 22-1-1 this season when the sophomore tallies a point with the forward factoring into both of Minnesota's goals on Friday.
After a scoreless first period, Ben Marshall put Minnesota up 1-0 with his seventh goal of the year at 6:56 of the second period, slamming the puck past Andrew Walsh in net for the Beavers (6-21-8). Rau picked up his first point of the night on the goal, feeding Marshall for his 23rd assist this season and extending his point streak to four games.
Minnesota, which had a season-high 51 shots on goal in the win and held the visitors to single-digit shots in all four periods, looked to have the game in hand until Brance Orban knocked a loose puck into the Gophers' net with 38 seconds remaining in regulation. Radoslav Illo and Jeff Jubinville picked up assists on the goal to force overtime.
The added session proved to be a highly contested battle between the two in-state rivals. Bemidji State had seven of its 18 shots in the overtime period, but it was the Gophers who struck the deciding blow.
Rau slipped the loose puck in for his 15th goal and 38th point of the season at 13:18 of the overtime period to give the Gophers their first overtime win in six contests this season. Nate Schmidt and Christian Isackson earned assists on the game-winning goal.
Adam Wilcox climbed within one win of Kellen Briggs' Minnesota rookie wins record on Friday, moving to 24-6-5 after stopping 17-of-18 shots. Wilcox and Walsh provided for one of the best goaltending battles of the season on Friday as Walsh made an impressive 49 saves for the Beavers in a losing effort. Minnesota was 0-for-2 on the power play while Friday's win marked the first game of the season that the Gophers did not take a penalty.
Minnesota and Bemidji State continue their best-of-three WCHA playoff series tomorrow night at Mariucci Arena. Game time is 7 p.m. CT with FOX Sports North and 1500 ESPN calling the action.