In a college hockey season where seemingly nothing has seemed ordinary and precious little has gone according to anyone’s best-laid plans, there were some happy signs of normalcy for the Minnesota Gophers on Friday evening.

Namely, their goal-scorers scored, their penalty-killers killed, and their primary puck-stopper stopped every puck he faced. The end result was a critically important rebound after their worst loss of the season, and a 3-0 road win over Notre Dame.

The Gophers moved to 16-5-0 and (at least for now) back into first place in the Big Ten via 24 saves from Jack LaFontaine in his fourth shutout of the season. They got offense from usual suspects like Sammy Walker and Sampo Ranta -- the team’s two leading goal-producers -- and from Blake McLaughlin, who always scores at Notre Dame’s Compton Family Ice Arena.

Perhaps most importantly, they started to put a pair of losses to Wisconsin last weekend behind them, and looked much like a team getting its groove back.

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“Every guy, all three periods, there was never a letdown,” Gophers coach Bob Motzko said. “Maybe one of our more complete wins of the year and it came at a great time. We needed it.”

For Motzko, it was a step toward showing the college hockey world that the letdowns versus the Badgers were anomalies, and a dominant road win is more of the norm for a team that has played some of the program’s best hockey in years this season.

“We’ve played like that a lot this year,” said the coach. “We’ve had a couple weekends since Christmas now where we’ve gotten off track, and it rattles you...This team didn’t do anything it hadn’t done many times this year, but we needed to do it. We needed to respond after last weekend. And we’ve got to continue that.”

Like many wins do, it started in goal, where LaFontaine was calm all night, handling a few times where Irish forwards were isolated in front of the net. His saves weren’t spectacular or sprawling, they were quiet, which is the sign of a goalie on his game, in the right position, prepared. His most important work came late in the second period and early in the third.

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For the second consecutive game, Gophers forward Jaxon Nelson was ejected for a major penalty, this time for an open-ice hit on Irish forward Solag Bakich. Officials determined it was contact to the head, while a closer look at the replays seemed to indicate shoulder-to-shoulder contact.

In any case, the Irish had their best chance of the night to tie the game. LaFontaine had four saves in the opening four minutes of the final period, and the penalty expired with no damage done on the scoreboard.

“He’s been the backbone of the team this year and even last year,” said Ranta, whose team-leading 13th goal of the season made it 2-0 later in the third. “(Jack’s) a great guy and we love playing in front of him. He’s just a great goalie and a great guy to be around. You want to lay your body in front of him and make sure nothing gets through. He deserves that.”

Ranta nearly made it 2-0 much earlier, beating Irish goalie Dylan St. Cyr through the five-hole on a breakaway, only to have the puck trickle wide of the right goal post. In the final seconds, Walker passed to McLaughlin in alone on an empty net, and McLaughlin slipped the puck over the goal line with less than a second on the clock. He has scored a goal in all five career regular season games he has played in Notre Dame’s rink.

“They played very well,” said Irish coach Jeff Jackson, crediting the Gophers. “They looked like a team that got swept last weekend and we looked like a team that won big last weekend. They’re too good a team to turn pucks over on, and I thought we did a very poor job of managing the puck.

St. Cyr finished with 30 saves for the Irish (10-10-1) who saw their season-long three-game winning streak snapped. The series concludes Saturday with an opening faceoff at 4:30 p.m. CT.

View Jess Myers' postgame video wrap-up here.

Game Summary

Minnesota 1-0-2—3

Notre Dame 0-0-0—0

First period — 1. MIN, Sammy Walker 11 (Jackson LaCombe, Jack LaFontaine), 11:10, (pp). Penalties — Ben Meyers, MIN (holding), 8:17; Jake Pivonka, UND (holding), 9:33.

Second period — No scoring. Penalties — Ryan Johnson, MIN (tripping), 15:49; Jaxon Nelson -- served by Mason Nevers (5 & game misconduct -- contact to the head), 19:15.

Third period — 2. Sampo Ranta 13 (Brannon McManus, Ben Brinkman), 15:35. 3. Blake McLaughlin 9 (Walker), 19:59, (en). Penalties — Matt Steeves, UND (boarding), 7:00.

Shots on goal — MIN 10-14-9—33; UND 8-6-10—24. Goalies — Jack LaFontaine, MIN (24 shots-24 saves); Dylan St. Cyr, UND (33-30). Power plays — MIN 1-of-2, UND 0-of-3. Referees — Brett DesRosiers, Sean Fernandez. Linesmen — Bill Hancock, Riley Bowles. Att. — NA.