Minnesota squanders opening game, beats Union the next game

Gophers emerge the first weekend of play 1-1.

Goaltender Eric Schierhorn watches forward Leon Bristedt reach to block a pass against Wisconsin at 3M Arena at Mariucci on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2017.

Goaltender Eric Schierhorn watches forward Leon Bristedt reach to block a pass against Wisconsin at 3M Arena at Mariucci on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2017.

by Drew Cove

The Gophers looked to avenge a seven-game losing streak to the Bulldogs dating back to 2014. 

Despite being tied on the scoreboard 3-3 at the end of regulation, the Gophers fell to the Bulldogs 4-3 in overtime on the first day of the Ice Breaker Tournament, extending their losing streak to the in-state rival to eight games, and won against Union Saturday 2-0 to end the weekend 1-1.

“I don’t think we supported the puck well enough,” head coach Don Lucia told reporters Friday. “As the game got going, I thought we righted the ship a little bit. It’s disappointing when you’re up by a goal two different times in the third period then they give it up.”

A go-ahead goal by forward Jack Ramsey gave the Gophers a 3-2 lead, their second lead of the night, and maybe some breathing space.

The lead didn’t last, however.

After No. 3 Minnesota took the lead, No. 6 Minnesota-Duluth came back and tied the game at 3 just 40 seconds later.

The game remained a stalemate until the overtime period, where Minnesota-Duluth’s forward Parker Mackay sent the Bulldogs home with an opening night win.

Minnesota’s offense failed to produce more than 10 shots in a period, and didn’t get any in overtime.

The Gophers’ starting goaltender Eric Schierhorn made 40 saves Friday, looking like the reigning Big Ten goaltender of the year.

Minnesota’s goalie kept the team in the game after defensive breakdowns that allowed some of Minnesota-Duluth’s skilled forwards chances to score.

Schierhorn continued that success Saturday, earning his first shutout of the season, making 26 saves against Union.

“It’s funny, because I didn’t feel as good tonight,” Schierhorn told reporters Saturday. ”I let out a couple rebounds I didn’t want to get let out, but our defense played really well tonight.”

Friday, the Bulldogs managed to tie the score in the third period — twice. 

To get the score to 2-2, the Bulldogs capitalized in the last seconds of a power play at the beginning of the third period.

Minnesota’s first lead came from the stick of forward Scott Reedy, his first official goal with the team.

The Gophers went into the locker room after two periods with a 2-1 lead, but behind 29-12 on shots.

Minnesota lacked offensive chances early on in the game, generated by passes being broken up and losing the puck around the Bulldogs’ blue line.

The first goal for the Gophers came on only their eighth shot of the night, a goal down in front from forward Tommy Novak, his first regular season goal since Jan. 13.

While game two of the Ice Breaker for Minnesota wasn’t an in-state rival, it was against the No. 16 Union team that beat the Gophers in the national championship game in 2014.

The Gophers emerged with the 2-0 win Saturday, finishing third out of four at the tournament.

Freshman Casey Mittelstadt scored the first goal of his collegiate career Saturday, the eventual game winner, and his linemate Rem Pitlick scored the second goal, which ended up being insurance for Minnesota.

“We really stuck together as a group tonight,” Pitlick told reporters Saturday. “As everyone knows, it doesn’t hurt to have Casey Mittelstadt out there.”

The Gophers’ line of Reedy, Pitlick and Mittelstadt was clicking both nights for Minnesota, and between the three of them, they only have one year of experience at the college level.

Defenseman Ryan Lindgren got a five minute and game penalty that saw him leave the game in the third period for a hit to the head.

Despite the deficit in shots Friday, the Gophers outshot the Dutchmen Saturday 36-26.