Gophers Take Third in Mariucci Classic

Ben Gotz

When the Gophers needed a lift, Kyle Rau delivered.

The senior captain scored in overtime to give the Gophers a 3-2 win over RIT to take third place in the Mariucci Classic.

"Our captain came through for us tonight," head coach Don Lucia said.

The Gophers outshot the Tigers handily and drew more penalties than their opponent, but a lack of scoring and two key defensive breakdowns kept RIT in the game.

On the first, junior defenseman Mike Reilly made an aggressive pinch on the boards but let the puck and junior forward Dan Schuler get behind him and create an odd man rush  opportunity. On the second, the Gophers lost track of senior forward Brandon Thompson, who got behind the Minnesota defense and got the puck behind junior goaltender Adam Wilcox.

"We made a couple major breakdowns to give up the goals," Lucia said. "Those are the things that we have to clean up and stay with it from a defensive standpoint and not get caught trying so hard to score that goal you give one up."

Here are five other takeaways from the Gophers win over RIT in the final game of the Mariucci Classic here on Upon Further Review:
1. The Gophers 2014 Power Play Isn't Back Yet

So far, the Gophers top ranked power play unit has not crossed over into 2015.

After leading the nation with a 31.48 conversion percentage at the break, the Gophers went just 1-10 on the power play at the Mariucci Classic, including going 1-6 against RIT.

"Got a little too cute at times around the net area," junior defenseman Mike Reilly said, who scored the team's one power play goal of the evening. "Instead of taking it to the net, we’d look for that extra pass or kind of skate away from the area of the net."

Reilly also gave credit to the Tigers' penalty kill, which clogged up Minnesota's shooting lanes all night.

"RIT really blocked shots," Reilly said. "They had a lot of heart out there to get on a knee, and that’s something we could look at to try to bring to our game."

2. Shots Not Leading to Points

The Gophers outshot their two opponents at the Mariucci Classic 90-38. But combined, the Gophers scored the same number of goals as their opponents.

After the game, Lucia said he saw positive things in the team's ability to generate shots, limit opposing shots and spend time in the opposing end, even if the scoreboard didn't reflect it.

"We generated a whole lot of offense over the weekend but they’re not going in and that’s hockey," Lucia said. "If you continue to do those things, those trends, you’ll get rewarded."

Rau said the team needed to take better shots though, and increase their prescense in the blue paint if they want to score more.

"We had a lot of shots. I could have saved half of them," Rau said. "We need to crash the net."

3. Fasching, Collins Back

The Gophers welcomed sophomore forward Hudson Fasching and freshman defenseman Ryal Collins back to their lineup Saturday, after the pair lost in the World Juniors Friday afternoon.

Fasching made an immediate impact upon his return, providing an assist on Rau's game-winning goal.

"I'm happy he's back," Rau said. "He's an excellent player."

Freshman forward Leon Bristedt is still competing in the World Junior, but Lucia said after the game he is hopeful Bristedt and injured junior defenseman Brady Skjei will both be in the Gophers lineup next weekend against Michigan.

"There’s been very few games with everyone available to us," Lucia said. "Hopefully we can kind of put the lines together and the defensive pairs together and move forward."

4. Gophers Get "Dirty" Goals

Saturday afternoon, Lucia challenged his players to get a goal off of a tip and a goal off of a rebound.

Check and check. Sophomore forward Vinni Lettieri scored the first goal of the game off of a tip, deflecting a shot from the point past sophomore goaltender Mike Rotolo. Rau then added the goal off of a rebound with his game-winner, which came off of a rebound created from a shot by Fasching.

Rau said goals like those are what the Gophers need to look for to get on the scoreboard more.

 "We need to start scoring goals, and I think it starts with crashing the net on rebounds," Rau said.

5. Weekend "Unacceptable"

Earlier this week, senior forward Travis Boyd said how the Gophers played in the Mariucci Classic would indicate how the second half of the season would go.

According to Kyle Rau, this weekend indicates the team needs improvement still.

"A loss and almost a tie in our own building is unacceptable," Rau said. "We’ve got to get better. Way better."