DULUTH, MINN. — If Saturday was a departure from what the Minnesota Golden Gophers did wrong on Friday to lose to Minnesota Duluth 5-2, they added a new, more frustrating problem to the docket.
That frustration could be summed up in forward Sampo Ranta’s second period of the 2-0 loss in the series finale from Amsoil Arena.
Minnesota began the period facing a 1-0 deficit and got a power play early to potentially even things up again. A rebound off Minnesota Duluth goaltender Hunter Shepard went right to Ranta just at the top of the crease and with the net open and time to shoot, he sent the puck well over the crossbar and into the protective netting around the rink.
The chance was such a sure chance to be a goal that Ranta celebrated for a few seconds before realizing he had shot the puck right out of play. After the realization, his body language changed significantly, slouching down on his stick, regretting the chance he had let slip away.
“We had some point-blank chances,” Gophers head coach Bob Motzko said. “You want one to go by. You miss one, you start gripping the stick a little bit. I always say, as long as you’re getting chances, you’re doing the right things, and [Ranta] got a lot of good chances tonight.”
Later in the period, he was sprung on a breakaway during a period of 4-on-4 play. That shot, too, missed the net and went wide to the glass.
Ranta’s misses became the larger trend for the Gophers in the loss. The Gophers attempted 45 shots in the game, with 21 making it officially on net. Minnesota’s misses were premium chances and ones that do not come often against the team that won two consecutive national championships on the back of a stifling defense that prevents most offensive chances against them.
In addition to shots missing the net, Minnesota had difficulty entering the offensive zone efficiently and generating quality shots from between the circles and in tight on the goaltender Shepard.
“I think we did a good job of getting pucks past their defense,” freshman forward Jonny Sorenson said. “At the end of the day, we’ve got to get some pucks in the net.”
Goaltender Jared Moe got the start for Minnesota and put together an impressive game, giving up one goal, with the second coming as an empty netter in the waning seconds of the loss. Moe faced 22 shots and let in one goal, with the goal coming in the first period. The freshman held strong in the later parts of the game to keep Minnesota competitive in the game.
“I think it actually helped watching [on the bench] last night,” Moe said. “Kind of being able to see how they attack, how their power play works. I watched a lot of film coming into this game to look at their tendencies.”
With the loss, they fell to 8-15-5 in matchups against Minnesota Duluth since 2009. The Gophers return to 3M Arena at Mariucci for a two-game series with Big Ten foe Notre Dame.
Motzko said the team learned a lot about themselves from this series with the Bulldogs. That knowledge should come in handy against the Fighting Irish, a team that plays a similar style of staunch defense and counts on low-scoring games for victories.