Gophers fail to carry momentum Saturday

A different Minnesota team showed up for Saturday’s loss than Friday’s win.

The Gophers attempt to score Saturday against the Bulldogs in Duluth. The Gophers lost the game 0-3 to the Bulldogs.

The Gophers attempt to score Saturday against the Bulldogs in Duluth. The Gophers lost the game 0-3 to the Bulldogs.

Max Sanders

Will the real Gophers menâÄôs hockey team please stand up? Despite winning 3-2 in the series opener, Minnesota showed the Hyde to its Jekyll Saturday night falling to the Bulldogs 3-0. âÄúWhen you think maybe they can take that step, we just can’t take the next one,” head coach Don Lucia said. “I was disappointed tonight. I don’t feel like we gave ourselves a chance to win.âÄù After a home sweep of Colorado College opened the door for Minnesota to make a late season run for home ice, those dreams were squashed this weekend after a split in Duluth. Facing a Minnesota-Duluth team that was reeling coming into this weekend, going 2-6 over its past eight games, the Gophers had a chance to make a run at a top-five conference spot. But the same inconsistency Minnesota had shown all season ended up sealing the Gophers playoff fate. Friday night seemed to be a reversal of fortunes for LuciaâÄôs squad. After losing a heartbreaker earlier in the season against the Bulldogs when a shot deflected off a Gophers defenseman and went into the net for the game-winning goal, all the breaks in FridayâÄôs opener went MinnesotaâÄôs way. The scoring started with just more then eight minutes remaining in the first period. MinnesotaâÄôs Jake Hansen stole the puck and started a two-on-one fast break. After driving down the left side, Hansen passed the puck to Nick Larson , who fired high and past Minnesota-Duluth goalie Brady Hjelle for the gameâÄôs opening goal. The Bulldogs responded late in the second period. On a power play Rob Bordson took the puck behind the net and found a waiting David Grun in the crease for the equalizer with just 3.7 seconds remaining. The play of the night, however, came midway through the third period. A tied game at 1, MinnesotaâÄôs Cade Fairchild was called for goaltender interference after hitting Hjelle after the whistle. Immediately after the penalty ended, Fairchild left the box and, because of a poor BulldogâÄôs line change, was left wide open for a breakaway opportunity. After receiving the perfect pass from Jordan Schroeder , Fairchild was all alone, though Minnesota-Duluth defenseman Chad Huttel appeared to be closing in. Just as Huttel was about to poke check Fairchild the defenseman collided with referee Scott Bokal , and Fairchild finished putting the puck through the legs of Hjelle. âÄúI really didn’t know what happened but I knew that guy fell so I had a couple extra seconds,âÄù Fairchild said. âÄúI was going to shoot from the top of the circle or the hash marks, but then I saw the guy get tripped up, and I was able to make a move.” After another power-play goal by Minnesota-Duluth tied the game at 2-2, Jacob Cepis knocked in the game winner with just more than five minutes remaining in the third when his shot from the crease bounced off a Bulldogs defenseman and found the back of the net. The Gophers were unable to carry over any momentum from the night before, and were shutout for a season-record fifth time this season. The first period of SaturdayâÄôs game ended up presenting Minnesota with its best chance at finding the back of the net, but multiple chances proved unsuccessful. Schroeder took a pass late in the period and was skating across the slot when he fired a shot that bounced off the left pipe and deflected wide. The missed chance proved to be crucial, as the Gophers were only able to manage 22 shots on net the entire game. âÄúWe just didn’t produce, and we had some chances,âÄù Minnesota defenseman David Fischer said. âÄúWe had some quality [chances]; hit a couple pipes. Their goalie made some saves.âÄù The second period would prove to be the dagger for the Gophers home ice hopes. In the span of 86 seconds, Minnesota-Duluth scored two goals. Jack Connolly fired a shot on net that was deflected by Kangas. The rebound was left right in the slot, where Justin Fontaine put the puck into the empty net. The Bulldogs second goal came on power play, when Brady Lamb blasted a shot from the right point that found the back of the net. âÄúOur specialty teams kind of let us down this weekend,âÄù Fischer said. âÄúWe got away with it on Friday, but [Saturday] it got us.âÄù With the weekend split, Minnesota-Duluth (19-14-1, 15-10-1 WCHA) clinches a first round matchup in Duluth for the Western Collegiate Hockey Association conference tournament. The Gophers (16-16-2, 11-13-2) also sealed their playoff fate, as they will now travel for the first round of the WCHA tournament. While playoff pairings have yet to be set, a re-match of this weekendâÄôs series seems likely, but where they travel in the first round is insignificant to Minnesota. âÄúWho cares? Whatever,âÄù Fischer said. âÄúOn the road in the playoffs you know what kind of atmosphere itâÄôs going to be either up in Grand Forks or up here in Duluth âĦ We got to come with our solider hats on and our shovels and get ready to play.âÄù