Gophers gamble with penalties, lose to North Dakota in Vegas

Minnesota lost 3-1 to longtime rival North Dakota on Saturday in the first loss of the season.

Junior goaltender Mat Robson eyes the puck during the game against the University of Minnesota Duluth on Sunday, Oct. 7 at Mariucci Arena.

Ellen Schmidt

Junior goaltender Mat Robson eyes the puck during the game against the University of Minnesota Duluth on Sunday, Oct. 7 at Mariucci Arena.

Jack Warrick

The Gophers experienced their first loss of the season to North Dakota on Saturday.

No. 17 ranked North Dakota beat No. 5 Minnesota 3-1 in Las Vegas for the United States Hockey Hall of Fame game in a penalty-ridden contest that ultimately buried the Gophers.

“In game number three, we have to pull the pieces out. … What can help us move forward?” head coach Bob Motzko told reporters. “Not beat each other up, but we have to pull out what we can pull out.”

The Gophers struck first. Forward Brent Gates Jr. found the net on the power play early in the second period, and his score, assisted by Sampo Ranta and Rem Pitlick, ended up as the only tally for the Gophers.

North Dakota’s Colton Poolman evened up the score in the second and scored the game winner on the power play in the third. There were 18 total penalties, and 10 were taken by the Gophers. Each team had a player commit a game misconduct for checking from behind. Gophers’ defenseman Sam Rossini exited the game in the final four minutes of play for the major penalty.

“That’s a sign of what’s going on right now,” Motzko told reporters. “That’s got to get corrected because it was just some senseless penalties.”

Minnesota goalie Mat Robson saved 30 of 32 shots in his first loss this season. He has a 93.4 save percentage in his career with the Gophers. The Gophers were outshot 33-21 in the non-conference rivalry matchup.

“I thought our goaltending was great tonight,” Motzko told reporters. “[Robson has] been great from the get-go. That’s a strong suit of ours.”

North Dakota capped scoring with an empty-net goal in the final minute of the rivalry game.

The Fighting Hawks scheduled the game, and former Gophers’ coach Don Lucia accepted the invitation to play on the Las Vegas Strip.

The two teams have played each other 296 times. The Gophers lead the rivalry at 148-132-16.

The Gophers will start regular weekend series play this weekend against Minnesota State University – Mankato. The teams will play at 3M Arena at Mariucci Friday, and at Mankato’s Verizon Center on Saturday.