The Minnesota Golden Gophers attempted to rectify their poor showing on Thursday night to earn a series split with rival North Dakota, but fell 3-2 to the Fighting Hawks in a series sweep on Friday.
That effort got out to a good start with co-captain Tyler Nanne getting a blast of a shot past North Dakota goaltender Adam Scheel for a 1-0 lead early in the first period, but from there, the Gophers were outscored 3-1 and fell again for the series sweep at the hands of its most important rival.
“It’s all we can take from this now, it’s lessons,” forward Blake McLaughlin said. “It sucked to get swept at home … It’s a tough bullet to bite, but we’ll take a lesson.”
Though the score wasn’t as egregious as Thursday night’s nine-goal rout, North Dakota continued its success from the first game to beat Minnesota again at 3M Arena at Mariucci.
After the first period, the home team and fans looked at a close and gritty score of 1-1 along with nine shots for each side. The only thing that those stats didn’t show was that Minnesota went shotless for the last 11 minutes of the first period to limp into the intermission and be thankful North Dakota hadn’t capitalized beyond its one goal in the first 20 minutes.
In the second, the Fighting Hawks took advantage of speed and grit: winning puck battles, races to open pucks and creating turnovers. North Dakota’s defensive zone presence was so stifling it kept the Gophers largely to the perimeter of the ice with low danger scoring chances and high propensity for blocked shots leading to more turnovers.
Minnesota did have some bright spots on the weekend, though, as the Sampo Ranta-Scott Reedy-Brannon McManus line was the only line for the Gophers that had consistent pressure and ability to generate quality scoring chances.
Freshmen Jack Perbix and Ben Meyers had a good series mainly because of the gritty nature to their game. Perbix looked build for this type of series for getting under opponents’ skin for finishing checks and being intense into the offensive zone.
Meyers was tenacious on and off the puck and took advantage of his skill while not having to face the top defensive pairing for North Dakota. He scored a goal in the third period on Friday to make it two goals in the past two games for him, when he previously had one goal all season until this series.
“They’ve got a will to play,” head coach Bob Motzko said. “They both had it [Thursday night] too. We’ve got freshmen leading the way. I know we’ve got a lot of them, we need some other guys leading the way.”
Goaltender Jared Moe started the game Friday after giving up four goals in relief on Thursday. He looked more dialed in, besides a goal that came from a rebound off his chest, he gave the Gophers a good chance to be in the game with a chance to win.
He provided a stabilizing force on the back end when some of the younger defensemen had trouble with turnovers in both the offensive and defensive zone.
“Our breakouts were a lot better tonight, we didn’t turn over the puck as much, we still had a little which we’ve got to work on,” Moe said. “Compared to [Thursday] night, it was nothing.”