Minnesota splits penalty-filled weekend in North Dakota

The Gophers won on Friday, but lost Saturday.

Senior forward Mike Szmatula lines up for a shot on North Dakota's goal on Oct. 20 at the Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks, North Dakota.

Easton Green

Senior forward Mike Szmatula lines up for a shot on North Dakota’s goal on Oct. 20 at the Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks, North Dakota.

Drew Cove

Minnesota was able to overcome a shot deficit Friday, but not Saturday.

The Gophers (3-3-0, 1-1-0 Big Ten) played to a 2-1 win Friday night, but lost in a rout 4-0 to the Fighting Hawks (4-1-1, 0-0-0 NCHC) Saturday. Minnesota won its seventh straight game against North Dakota Friday.

“It’s not often you’re going to come up here and lose the specialty [teams] 1-0 and still be able to win a game,” said head coach Don Lucia Friday.

The Gophers hadn’t lost to the Fighting Hawks since March of 2012 in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association’s Final Five tournament.

Minnesota’s key to this victory was the defensive game and shot blocking.

The most important shot blocking attempt happened in the last 4.7 seconds of Friday’s game. North Dakota defenseman Gabe Bast had the puck at the blue line with the goaltender pulled, and if he could get the shot on net, the game could have been tied. Forward Jack Ramsey stopped the shot. The puck hit his shin pad and went out of the zone, ending the scoring threat and securing the victory.

The Gophers had 29 total blocked shots in the game, while they managed only 18 shots themselves in the game. 

Defenseman Tyler Nanne topped the charts with six blocked shots, defenseman Jack Glover had five and Ramsey had four.

“It’s unbelievable,” said goaltender Eric Schierhorn Friday. “It energizes me, it energizes the team, [it] brings us closer as a team. The sellout you saw tonight from all of our guys was unbelievable… That’s the reason why we won.”

Schierhorn was also key to Minnesota’s game, stopping a barrage of Fighting Hawks shots. The goaltender stopped 34 of the 35 he faced in the game, and like he mentioned, had help from his defenders.

Minnesota’s goal scorers were forward Rem Pitlick, who had two points on the night, and defenseman Steve Johnson. Johnson hadn’t scored in 48 games for the Gophers, the longest streak on the team.

The Gophers got 18 shots in Friday’s game and won, and but failed to repeat on Saturday. North Dakota shutout Minnesota 4-0 Saturday, despite having 22 shots, four more than North Dakota had.

“It’s frustrating [and] disappointing,” captain Tyler Sheehy told the media Saturday. “I think we actually had a better effort [Saturday].”

The Gophers were down 1-0 in the first period, then Glover got a five minute major penalty and was ejected from the game for checking from behind. Minnesota saw three goals scored on the penalty to Glover, and just four minutes into the second period, it was 4-0 in favor of the Fighting Hawks.

There was no looking back for North Dakota, despite being outshot, and they were able to handle Minnesota’s offense without forward Casey Mittelstadt, who didn’t play due to an injury sustained Friday.

“We didn’t give [ourselves] a chance,” Lucia told the media Saturday. “That’s what’s disappointing, the parade to the penalty box.”