Gophers blown out by Notre Dame in second game of series

Minnesota won the first game of the series 1-0 in overtime, but lost the second 4-1.

Sophomore defenseman Ryan Zuhlsdorf fights for the puck during a game against Notre Dame on Friday, Jan. 26 at 3M Arena at Mariucci.

Max Ostenso

Sophomore defenseman Ryan Zuhlsdorf fights for the puck during a game against Notre Dame on Friday, Jan. 26 at 3M Arena at Mariucci.

Drew Cove

Minnesota got the same offensive production Saturday, but not the result they wanted.

No. 13 Minnesota (16-13-1, 7-10-1 Big Ten) fell to No. 1 Notre Dame (20-5-1, 14-2-0 Big Ten) 4-1 in the series finale.

“We just didn’t do enough,” head coach Don Lucia said. “[We] couldn’t get there to get another win tonight.”

In the second period, Notre Dame got out to a 2-0 lead and that would be enough to seal the victory.

Minnesota’s players and coaches said this week that going down to the Fighting Irish would be tough. The Gophers got a fast start early, but that quickly dwindled in the first period. Notre Dame came back after Friday’s defeat to score the first and second goals of the game.

Forward Brannon McManus took a shot that soared by Notre Dame goaltender Cale Morris and the Fighting Irish lead was cut in half before the final 20 minutes of play. After the goal, there was new life in the Gophers’ offense.

“Anytime you can go in with any sort of momentum, it’s obviously big,” McManus said. “It’s just penalties that led to the loss.”

Though the Gophers trimmed the deficit to one goal, a costly turnover changed the game in the third period. The hero in Friday’s game, forward Casey Mittelstadt, left the puck open in front of goaltender Mat Robson and Notre Dame forward Dylan Malmquist capitalized on the chance.

Notre Dame lost its first two Big Ten conference games ever in Friday’s loss to Minnesota and the game before the Minnesota series to Wisconsin.

“It’s just a mindset,” Notre Dame head coach Jeff Jackson said. “It was a tough loss last night and those type of losses, generally, it is hard the second night. I give our guys a lot of credit. [They] showed some mental toughness and maturity.”

Minnesota allowed Notre Dame costly power plays. Minnesota took six penalties in the game and Notre Dame’s 18th-ranked power play converted on half, notching three goals from those opportunties.

With the team’s loss to the Fighting Irish, Minnesota misses out on three pivotal points in the Big Ten standings. Minnesota came into Saturday’s game tied for fifth in the conference. After Penn State and Wisconsin went into a shootout Saturday, the Gophers now sit alone at sixth place, just one point behind Penn State and Michigan.

The Minnesota offense mustered two goals in two games this weekend, which continued the trend of offensive struggles.

“In some ways, [you are] lucky to get a win when you score one goal a night,” Lucia said.