Gophers men’s hockey season ends after loss to Notre Dame

Minnesota blows 2-0 lead to lose 3-2 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Senior forward Justin Kloos

Carter Jones, Daily File Photo

Senior forward Justin Kloos

Drew Cove

Only one No. 1 seed lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament — and that team was the Gophers.

No. 1-seed Minnesota (23-12-3) was upset by the No. 4-seed Notre Dame (22-11-5) 3-2 Saturday, and now the Gophers season is over.

“[It’s] disappointing [Saturday] not to win,” head coach Don Lucia told the media. “But [I’m] still proud of this group because it’s hard to do over the long term.”

The goal to send Minnesota home was off the stick of Notre Dame’s prolific scorer, Anders Bjork.

Bjork scored his second goal of the game midway through the third period on the power play, and it spelled the eventual end for Minnesota.

The Gophers controlled the pace of play until a bad line change led to Notre Dame’s goaltender Cal Petersen sending a pass up to forward Andrew Oglevie, and he wristed the puck past goaltender Eric Schierhorn for Notre Dame’s first goal, his 20th of the season.

From that point, Minnesota was reeling and wasn’t able to recover, with Bjork tying and subsequently giving the Fighting Irish their only lead of the contest.

“They ended up getting one in the back of the net,” forward Tyler Sheehy told the media. “We had a few chances that we couldn’t capitalize on. Tough break for us but I don’t think too much changed after we had the lead.”

The Gophers looked to get off to an optimistic start, breaking the ice in the opening two minutes.

Minnesota’s fifth-year senior from Chanhassen, Minnesota, Connor Reilly, got his first goal of the season to give the Gophers the early 1-0 lead.

Senior Vinni Lettieri also scored for Minnesota on Saturday, and it was his 19th of the season.

Lettieri’s goal on the power play gave the Gophers the 2-0 lead, and they looked poised hold off the Irish to face the University of Massachusetts – Lowell Sunday in the northeast regional final.

Notre Dame had a lot of fight left, and wasn’t ready to end the season. The Fighting Irish scored three unanswered goals in the final thirty minutes of the game, and the Gophers’ season was over.

Schierhorn and Petersen both had strong games for their respective teams.

Schierhorn stopped 26 of the 29 shots he faced, including some big glove saves early on, and Petersen proved why he is a captain of the Notre Dame team, leading his team to victory with 31 saves and an assist on the stat sheet.

Minnesota’s quick departure from the post-season ends the collegiate career of at least six players.

The emotion of some of these departing players showed on the ice after the game, most notably by alternate captain Jake Bischoff, who was hunched over on the ice following the loss.

The Gophers’ senior players include Bischoff, Lettieri, Reilly, forwards Taylor Cammarata, Mitch Rogge and the captain, Justin Kloos.

“We learned everything from this group of seniors,” Schierhorn told the media. “I am not kidding when I say we love those guys, every single one of them. And so we learned how to be great people, great leaders, all from them.”