Bulldogs come from behind twice to sweep Gophers

The two games had nearly identical storylines as Minnesota fell.

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sthk1123-bm

Max Sanders

For two nights in a row, the Gophers menâÄôs hockey team seemed to be on its way to a victory and much needed two points. For two nights in a row, they were left stunned and confused after the final buzzer, left to wonder how they ended the weekend with zero points. Facing No. 20 Minnesota-Duluth (9-4-1 overall, 6-3-1 Western Collegiate Hockey Association), the Gophers knew theyâÄôd be facing one of the best power-play units in the country. While Minnesota held the Bulldogs to just two power-play goals all weekend, those two goals came at crucial, momentum-shifting moments that ended up sealing the GophersâÄô fate. In Friday nightâÄôs game, Minnesota started the game playing near-perfect hockey. Jordan Schroeder continued his hot streak, opening the GophersâÄô scoring less than a minute into the second period. Mike Hoeffel made a no-look pass from behind the net and found the sophomore right in front. Schroeder took the puck, and as he was fading back fired a backhander past Minnesota-DuluthâÄôs Kenny Reiter for the first goal of the night. The goal was SchroederâÄôs third in as many games, and after an early season slump the sophomore is starting to match last seasonâÄôs scoring production. âÄúIâÄôm starting to get a little more confidence scoring goals, and when I get some chances IâÄôm capitalizing,âÄù Schroeder said. The Gophers took a 2-0 lead later in the second period on a Jake Hansen goal. However, just two minutes after that goal, Minnesota-Duluth finally struck on the power play. Hoeffel was called for hooking, allowing the BulldogâÄôs to get their third power play of the night. Junior Rob Bordson put a shot on net that was batted into the air by sophomore Alex Kangas. As the puck was in the air it was swatted down and into the net by Jack Connolly . The play was reviewed and counted, and just like that the GophersâÄô lead was cut to one. âÄúYouâÄôre up 2-0, you just have momentum, and then that killed all of our momentum at that point and time,âÄù Minnesota head coach Don Lucia said. That goal was the first of three by the Bulldogs, as they took a 3-2 lead late into the third. With just less than three minutes remaining in regulation, this time the Gophers hit on power play. Nico Sacchetti took a shot from just inside the right faceoff circle that went past the right leg of Reiter for the equalizer, sending the game into overtime. The first extra period of the season for Minnesota was one they would like to forget. All four shots in extra time were taken by Minnesota-Duluth. The final shot of the night came with just 12 seconds remaining. Travis OleksukâÄôs wrist shot from just inside the right faceoff circle sent the Gophers home with zero points and an overtime loss. SaturdayâÄôs game virtually mirrored the first. Minnesota took a 2-0 lead. Minnesota committed a penalty. Jack Connolly made them pay. After a penalty by Hansen for interference, Justin Fontaine put a shot on net that was knocked away by Kangas. Connolly was there for the rebound put-back, and the GophersâÄô lead for the second-straight night was cut to one on the power-play goal. The goal by Connolly was his third of the weekend. Despite allowing the power-play goal, Minnesota still carried a 2-1 into the third period. The Gophers looked poised to add to their total, but their shots on net were missing just wide, with one going off the post. Minnesota-Duluth then regained offensive control and erased the GophersâÄô lead for the second-straight night. Kyle Schmidt stormed down the ice and fired a shot from inside the left side of the blue line that got past Kangas, tying the game at 2. Minnesota-Duluth proved there would be only one major difference between Friday and Saturday nightâÄôs game. SaturdayâÄôs game would need no overtime. From the right side of the GophersâÄô net, Minnesota-DuluthâÄôs Mike Montgomery made a centering pass directly in front of the net. The pass hit the skate of MinnesotaâÄôs Cade Fairchild and bounced past Kangas, giving Minnesota-Duluth the 3-2 win. The pucks bouncing off Minnesota players are something Lucia knows his team canâÄôt afford to have happen. âÄúWeâÄôre not a good enough team to have pucks go off us; thatâÄôs the reality,âÄù Lucia said. âÄúWe donâÄôt have a large margin for error.âÄù The feeling was somber in the Gophers locker room Saturday night, knowing they had two chances at victories and instead end the weekend with zero points. âÄúIt stings knowing that we had the leads, and we let them slip,âÄù Hoeffel said. âÄúWeâÄôre going to find a way to turn this around, and weâÄôre going to turn it around.âÄù Minnesota will have a short time to recover. They travel over the Thanksgiving break to play in the College Hockey Showcase, traveling to Michigan on Friday and Michigan State on Saturday.