The Gophers have had problems recently with following up impressive Friday night games with subpar Saturday ones.
That shouldn’t be a problem this weekend, because it will be difficult for Minnesota to play worse than it did in Friday’s 2-0 defeat to Denver at Mariucci Arena.
“I’ve said it all year that we really hadn’t had a game where we just weren’t very good,” Gophers head coach Don Lucia said. “Well, tonight we did.”
The Gophers were shut out for the first time since March 12, 2011.
Minnesota’s power play has been feast or famine at points this season, and it was the latter Friday. The Gophers went 0-for-5 with the extra man and mustered only two shots. The Pioneers outshot the Gophers 8-2 during Minnesota’s power plays.
“I’m agitated. I’m really disappointed,” Lucia said. “When you get outshot 8-2 on your own power play, that kind of sums it up.”
Lucia added the he gave the team an “earful” after the game, and the team also had an impromptu meeting after the loss.
“We’re embarrassed,” junior forward Zach Budish said. “We deserved to get booed tonight.”
The game was back-and-forth, sloppy and slow throughout the first two periods.
“It was kind of a boring game, and when you’re on the road that’s the kind of game you like,” Lucia said. “We earned what we got tonight.”
Shawn Ostrow scored 18 seconds into the third period to give Denver a 1-0 lead. Ostrow’s shot glanced off a skate and behind Adam Wilcox.
Ostrow’s goal sparked some urgency in the Gophers, but the team struggled to gets shots past Denver’s defense. When they did get shots to Pioneers goaltender Juho Olkinuora, he stood tall. The Pioneers also had 16 blocked shots in Friday’s win.
Denver added an empty-net goal in the game’s final minute.
The Gophers’ first line of Kyle Rau, Nick Bjugstad and Budish lacked consistency and chemistry Friday. Completed passes between the trio were rare, and a string of completions almost never happened.
“They weren’t in the same area code,” Lucia said. “I thought our [third and fourth lines] had more energy and more effort tonight than our top [line] did.”
Minnesota will look to salvage the series split tomorrow at Mariucci Arena at 7 p.m.