Minnesota shut out in home opening game

Goaltender Eric Schierhorn started in net for the team, allowing two goals.

Gophers defender Jake Bischoff dives to stop the puck during the first game of the 2015-16 season at Mariucci Arena on Saturday where the Gophers fell to Vermont, ending with a final score of 0-3.

Alex Tuthill-Preus

Gophers defender Jake Bischoff dives to stop the puck during the first game of the 2015-16 season at Mariucci Arena on Saturday where the Gophers fell to Vermont, ending with a final score of 0-3.

by Mike Hendrickson

In his first collegiate game on Saturday, goaltender Eric Schierhorn did everything the Gophers could’ve asked him to do.
 
The offense just couldn’t back him up.
 
In their first game of the season at Mariucci Arena, No. 9 Minnesota was blanked by the University of Vermont 3-0 after a solid performance by Schierhorn was topped by an even better performance by the Catamounts’ goaltender Mike Santaguida.
 
“[Schierhorn] did his job,” head coach Don Lucia said. “That’s exactly what I told him. We can’t expect our goalies to be perfect, but if they allow two goals they’ve done their job.”
 
After two periods, the score was at 1-0 in favor of Vermont. Less than five minutes into the third period, junior Mario Puskarich added his second goal of the night after sending a shot into Schierhorn’s pads and rebounding back into the net.
 
Vermont scored first just as the teams were getting ready to skate off the ice at the end of the first period. Puskarich scored with nine seconds remaining after his shot bounced off Schierhorn’s chest and trickled into the goal.
 
The Gophers had four power-play chances to bring the final score closer but couldn’t capitalize, including two early in the first period.
 
“I don’t think we tested [Santaguida] as much as we really wanted to,” junior defenseman Jake Bischoff said. “Their players did a great job at blocking shots. It was tough to get pucks through from the point.”
 
With 1:20 left in the game, the Gophers pulled Schierhorn, and 20 seconds later senior Jonathan Turk scored his first goal of the season on the empty net to seal Vermont’s victory.
 
“He played as good as you could expect a [19-year-old] goalie to come out and step on the ice for the first time and play,” junior forward Justin Kloos said. “Unfortunately, we didn’t back him up tonight.”
 
Lucia and Kloos both said turnovers sunk the team Saturday, and the offense had a hard time generating anything.
 
“We [had] too many turnovers from the start,” Kloos said. “Ultimately, that kind of killed our offense. It wasn’t just [their defense] coming out of the zone, but then when the forwards got the puck, [there were] turnovers everywhere on the ice whether it was at the offensive blue line or once we got in the zone.”
 
All of the Gophers four offensive lines were different from last year, and the team had six different freshmen take the ice during the game, including Schierhorn.
 
Kloos said a lack of chemistry didn’t prevent the Gophers from scoring more or turning the puck over less, but instead, he put the blame on himself and the other leaders of the team.
 
“I think the captains need to be better,” Kloos said. “It starts with us, and obviously the freshmen got their feet wet. … [The freshmen] did fine. We were the reason we lost, the older guys.”
 
The Gophers weren’t limited by their shots, as they only fell behind the Catamounts by three with 24 shots on goal. But too many shots missed the net or went straight into Santaguida, and Minnesota couldn’t make any of those 24 attempts count.
 
“We had our chances,” Lucia said. “We blew some over the net; we missed it wide. … We couldn’t get that first goal to seize it [and] create any momentum for ourselves.”