Gophers

Gophers Play to 2-2 Tie in Exhibition Matchup vs Mount Royal

Photo Credit: Brian Curski Photography

In hockey, ties are a thing of the past. Well, except for college exhibition games.

The Gophers’ men’s hockey team unofficially started its season on Sunday in an exhibition game against Mount Royal University out of Calgary, Alberta. Despite Minnesota facing a deficit heading into the third period, the game ended in a 2-2 tie after a five-minute overtime.

“We’re going to get a lot of good clips out of that [game],” Minnesota head coach Bob Motzko said. “We have to take all the good things we saw tonight and take that out. The things we know we’re going to get better at, we’ve got to identify that.”

The team has only been together for a few weeks and this was the first taste of game action for the young club. The Gophers entered the game with 10 freshmen on the roster, with another being a transfer from Canadian junior hockey, goaltender Jack LaFontaine. Most crucially amidst the Gophers’ youth movement, not one of their three goaltenders had appeared in a game for the maroon and gold until Sunday.

Each of the three goaltenders — LaFontaine, Jared Moe and Justen Close — got a period of play. Close was the last goaltender to appear, so he got an extra five minutes in the overtime frame. LaFontaine and Close saved every shot they faced, with six and 13, respectively. Moe let in two goals on nine shots, but Motzko said the team didn’t give the freshman too good of a chance on either of the scores.

“I thought we left Moe out to dry,” Motzko said. “What happened in the second period was we … came out great in the first 10 minutes of the game and then we just turned our ‘cute’ button on, and all we did was turn pucks over.”

Besides the play of the goaltenders, Minnesota’s top returning offensive players got in on the limited scoring action. Sophomore forwards Blake McLaughlin and Sammy Walker tallied Minnesota’s two goals, with Walker’s coming early in the first period and McLaughlin tying the score at two early in the third period.

Both Walker and McLaughlin said it seemed like they didn’t lose much chemistry with one another over the offseason. The two spent much of last season on a line together with fellow sophomore Nathan Burke. In this game, the duo was made a trio with freshman forward Bryce Brodzinski.

“Bryce is a great player,” Walker said. “He’s got a great shot, and just adding him to our line, we get him the puck and he can rip it. It was a good night for our line.”

Both Gophers goals came from a top power play unit that has changed entirely from last season with the departure of key senior forwards. In the end, Minnesota clipped at 25 percent on the power play going 2 for 8.

The team didn’t record a goal in even strength, which is something the players said would be a focus at practice heading into games that count next weekend.

The Gophers head to Colorado College for a two-game series and the start of regular season play on Oct. 11.

“I think we’re going to have to spend some time on our 5-on-5,” McLaughlin said. “I think both our goals were on the power play. I think we’re just going to have to learn how to score 5-on-5, especially with our young group, we’re going to have to have some guys step up and have roles they didn’t have in junior hockey, so we will see where it takes us.”

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