Gophers look to break penalty habit going into regular season play

The Gophers took 10 penalties in the loss to North Dakota over the weekend.

Forward Darian Romanko, center, eyes the puck during a game against Penn State at 3M at Mariucci Arena Feb. 4, 2017.

Ellen Schmidt, Daily File Photo

Forward Darian Romanko, center, eyes the puck during a game against Penn State at 3M at Mariucci Arena Feb. 4, 2017.

Jack Warrick

In three regular season games played this fall, the Gophers have taken 25 penalties, a stat that head coach Bob Motzko couldn’t explain.

“I can’t explain it. I don’t know a lot of the players. A couple players are leading the pack,” Motzko said. “It’s being discussed, and it’s going to be dealt with because one, I’m not used to that, and it’s crazy the amount of really unnecessary, dumb penalties we’ve been taking.”

In a 60-minute game of regulation college hockey, the Gophers have averaged 26.7 minutes per game of penalty minutes through the first three games. Motzko was the head coach of St. Cloud State last year, his team took an average of 4.2 penalties per game for 9.1 penalty minutes per game on average.

“I’m going to attribute some of that to you’re excited to play, you want to get going and we haven’t had a lot of games,” Motzko said. “We keep stepping over the line, and we got to get on top of that.”

Minnesota’s penalty woes were especially strong against North Dakota, when the Gophers lost 3-1 over the weekend in Las Vegas.

In the team’s first loss of the season to the Fighting Hawks, the Gophers took 10 penalties, including a five minute major for checking from behind. The 39 minutes, almost two full periods of penalty time, factored into the loss, as North Dakota scored the game-winning goal on the power play midway through the third period.

The Gophers looked to rally for the rest of the third period, but a Gophers’ checking from behind major at 3:11 left in the game made for a slim chance at a come back.

“We’ve kind of been harping on that, we need to be more disciplined, especially when we’re tired and stuck in the zone,” senior forward Darian Romanko said. “We need to be more disciplined and pack it in a little bit.”

The penalty situation has made it difficult for the goalies to settle in, goaltender Mat Robson said. He added that it’s not something to worry about, as it’s the start of the season. Robson faced 32 shots and saved 30 of them in the loss to North Dakota.

“With our penalties, it’s early in the season. We’re still learning how to play as a team,” Robson said. “There’s really not much to it, I’m not too worried about it. Like I said, looking forward to getting into the swing of things for real, and right into the meat and potatoes of the season.”

The Gophers are looking to get back into the swing of disciplined play as they will play Mankato State this weekend after almost a month-long stretch since their last two-game weekend series. The Gophers then played the U.S. Under 18 team and Trinity Western University. 

Their last series was against Minnesota-Duluth where the Gophers tied and then beat the No. 1 ranked team to kick off the season.

Mankato comes to 3M Arena at Mariucci on Friday with a No. 4 national ranking, according to USCHO.com, and a 5-1 record. The Mavericks will then play the Gophers on Saturday in Mankato at the Verizon Center.

Brief notes:

  • Freshman forward Sampo Ranta has a point in each of his first three collegiate games. He has been on the top line from the beginning of the season.

“He shoots a hockey puck like nobody I’ve seen for awhile,” Motzko said about the 6-foot-2-inches, 205-pound forward from Finland. “When he gets the puck the guys in practice, they get out of the way, because that’s all he wants to do is shoot.”

  • Romanko will play his 100th-straight game as a Gophers hockey player on Friday. 
  • Sophomore defenseman Clayton Phillips leads the Gophers with four points. All four points were assists.