Gophers take third in final North Star College Cup

The tournament of in-state rivals is ending after only four years of action.

Gophers goaltender Eric Schierhorn watches the puck against the Bulldogs in the North Star College Cup at the Xcel Energy Center in St.Paul on Friday, Jan. 27, 2017. The Bulldogs beat the Gophers 3-2.

Meagan Lynch

Gophers goaltender Eric Schierhorn watches the puck against the Bulldogs in the North Star College Cup at the Xcel Energy Center in St.Paul on Friday, Jan. 27, 2017. The Bulldogs beat the Gophers 3-2.

Drew Cove

A Minnesota tradition that never was, the North Star College Cup, went out with a whimper for the Gophers Saturday evening.

Minnesota lost to Minnesota-Duluth 3-2 Friday night and was victorious against Bemidji State 4-0 on Saturday to finish third out of four teams.

“I thought it was a hard-fought game,” said head coach Don Lucia Friday. “I thought both teams came out and competed really well.”

The No. 6 Gophers (15-7-2) faced one of their toughest opponents all season Friday in the No. 2 Bulldogs (17-5-4).

Down 3-1 late in the third period, Minnesota almost forged a big comeback — thanks to forward Brent Gates Jr.

The sophomore had both of Minnesota’s goals, one of which came with 38.9 seconds left in the game, but the Gophers never found the equalizer.

Minnesota opened the scoring on its seventh-ranked power play.

Gates — a player who scores in bunches — has three multi-goal games this season.

“The guys around me made good plays,” Gates said. “The second one, [with] an extra man at the end of the game, you’re just trying to get pucks to the net, and that’s what happened.”

The Gophers fell short with costly turnovers and sloppy passes, giving the Bulldogs several opportunities to score.

Minnesota and Minnesota-Duluth traded shot advantages in the second and third period. The Gophers were outshot 15-5 in the second period, but outshot the Bulldogs 22-2 in the third.

The Bulldogs forced the Gophers’ offense into one-and-done situations throughout the game and kept Minnesota from settling into offensive possession.

Both Lucia and Gates were positive after the loss, though, because they said the team knows what they are capable of now after keeping pace with as good of as Minnesota-Duluth.

On Saturday, Minnesota faced yet another top 20 team, No. 20 Bemidji State (16-11-3).

The Gophers didn’t have the same start as Friday’s game and allowed multiple breakaways in the first five minutes.

“Interesting start,” Lucia said. “Eric [Schierhorn] was good early, you know something we talked about this year, he hasn’t had to win us many games… that was a game he gave us an opportunity.”

Goaltender Eric Schierhorn bailed his team out many times on Saturday as turnovers remained prevalent.

“I don’t know if breakaways are really what you want,” Schierhorn said. “Both games I did have those shots [to] kind of get me in the rhythm.”

Schierhorn stopped all 25 shots he saw Saturday — his fourth shutout of the season.

Forward Taylor Cammarata scored his second goal of the season. The senior has seen increased playing time following the season-ending injury to forward Tommy Novak.

“We played against a good team,” Lucia said. “I said games like that would make us better in the long-run, and they will. Now we have to go back to work, we’re back in the Big Ten. We did much better non-conference this year against a good-quality slate of teams … and it puts us in a much better position.”