Gophers fall flat in Mariucci Classic

The Gophers (9-8-3) tied No. 18 Ferris State Saturday one day after losing to No. 14 Union in overtime.

by John Hageman

Coming off their most impressive series of the year against No. 4 Minnesota-Duluth three weeks ago, the Gophers had nothing but positive vibes and momentum to carry them into the holiday season.

Those good feelings, as well as the Gophers themselves, fell flat over the weekend.

After falling in overtime 3-2 to No. 14 Union Friday, the Gophers salvaged a 2-2 tie against No. 18 Ferris State Saturday in the Mariucci Classic. Western Collegiate Hockey Association rival Bemidji State came away as tournament champions.

The winless weekend comes just before the No. 19 Gophers (9-8-3) start a brutal conference stretch with a trip to No. 3 North Dakota two weeks from now, and with the Gophers struggling to find offensive consistency.

âÄúWe have a way to find a way to generate a little bit more offense,âÄù Minnesota head coach Don Lucia said. âÄúThere are some things we need to work on, find that continuity.âÄù

Some of that continuity may come with getting a full roster. Without freshmen Nick Bjugstad and Erik Haula, who were both participating the World Junior Championships, Lucia brought freshman Nate Schmidt up from the blue line to join Nick Larson and Pat WhiteâÄôs line Saturday.

Schmidt tallied his first career point with an assist on the Gophers’ first-period goal Saturday, and Lucia said he may move him to the forward spot permanently.

The Gophers played ketchup for much of the weekend, and didnâÄôt hold a lead at all Saturday night.

After exchanging first-period goals, Ferris State took the lead back late in the second when Brett Wysopal slipped the puck past Kent Patterson from the left circle.

Bulldogs goalie Pat Nagle was pelted with shots all night, and it took a perfect deflection by Jay Barriball off Jake HansenâÄôs shot to tie up the game midway through the final period on the power play, sending the game to overtime.

The extra five minutes couldnâÄôt settle it, but Lucia opted not to do a shootout. No matter the outcome, the game would have gone down as a tie, but that didnâÄôt stop the crowd from booing as the teams shook hands.

âÄúThere was no point. It was my feeling going into the game, you know, I never even thought about it,âÄù Lucia said. âÄúThe championship game had been decided and in the past the shootouts were just to advance to the championship game.âÄù

Unfortunately for the Gophers, FridayâÄôs edition of overtime hockey took just 42 seconds to produce a winner.

The Gophers came out flat against Union Friday, failing to generate any semblance of an offense for the first seven minutes, but eventually regained control. By the halfway point of the second period and the score tied at one apiece, it looked like the Gophers were on the verge of breaking through.

Minnesota took the lead with a power play goal from Mike Hoeffel late in the second. But before the announcer could finish recapping the goal, UnionâÄôs Josh JoorisâÄô score sucked all of the energy out of the arena with a goal of his own.

The Gophers final lead of the night and the series lasted just 13 seconds.

Jooris finished what he started by tipping in the game-winner early in overtime, this time sealing the win for Union.

After an exhibition matchup with the U.S. Under-18 team Friday, the Gophers will travel to No. 3 North Dakota on Jan. 14 for a weekend series. But they wonâÄôt be bringing any momentum with them.

âÄúBefore Christmas break, we showed how good of a team we can be,âÄù Hansen said. âÄúOur schedule coming upâĦit can either make our season or break us.âÄù