Gophers split on Boston road trip

The team beat Boston College but then lost to Northeastern.

Ben Gotz

Head coach Don Lucia said if his team wanted to win over the weekend, they’d have to bring their lunch buckets.

The Gophers played like they brought an entire Thanksgiving feast on Friday, but they didn’t seem to leave a lot of leftovers for Saturday.

The Gophers (8-4-0) split a road trip out east, defeating No. 12 Boston College but losing to unranked Northeastern.

Thirteen Gophers players recorded points in the team’s first game of the weekend, a 6-2 victory over the Eagles.

“We played like we knew we could play, which felt good,” sophomore defenseman Jake Bischoff told reporters after the game.

Senior forward Sam Warning scored early in the first period to put the Gophers ahead, and the team widened its lead to 3-0 after the first two periods.

The Eagles didn’t relinquish, though, and pushed the score to 3-2 with just under 14 minutes remaining.

The Gophers’ offense picked up again to close out the game, scoring two goals before redshirt sophomore forward Connor Reilly added an empty netter to seal the victory.

“We just kept pushing forward,” sophomore forward Vinni Lettieri told reporters after tallying his first two-goal game at Minnesota. “We didn’t sit on our heels; we just kept on our toes the whole game.”

The Gophers’ defense also received a boost with junior defenseman Brady Skjei’s return.

Skjei had been a key piece missing from the Gophers’ blue line since suffering a lower-body injury against St. Cloud State a month ago.

“Getting Brady back obviously helped in the back end,” Lucia told reporters after the game. “His heaviness, his ability to kill penalties and play those hard minutes helped us on the defense.”

But the Gophers couldn’t carry their momentum to Saturday, losing to Northeastern 3-2.

The Gophers suffered a big setback early, as junior defenseman Mike Reilly took two penalties — hitting from behind and game misconduct — and was removed from the game.

“When we lose one of our best players on a hit from behind, that kind of sets us back,” senior captain Kyle Rau told reporters after the game. “We got good momentum, we killed those off and we were rolling, but when you lose your best [defenseman], that kind of hurts.”

The Gophers kept the game close thanks to their special teams play, but a late goal helped Northeastern complete an upset victory.

The Gophers didn’t allow a power-play goal all weekend and scored on two power-play opportunities to stay even with
Northeastern.

But the Gophers ultimately lost when Northeastern squeezed in a 5-on-5 goal in the final minutes of play. Minnesota couldn’t answer even after pulling junior goaltender Adam Wilcox.

“We didn’t play 5-on-5 very well,” Rau told reporters after the game. “We lost the game 3-0 5-on-5.”

The Gophers left Boston behind after their road trip, but the team hopes to return later in the season for the Frozen Four.

If the team wants to visit the city’s TD Garden again this season, it’ll have to be for the championships in April.

“You’ve got to earn your way there,” Lucia said. “We haven’t done that, nor has anyone.”