It has been a frustrating few weeks for the Minnesota Golden Gophers, as they tried to solidify their spot in the Big Ten regular-season standings and even get a share of the regular-season title, and that frustration even furthered itself on Saturday night in a 2-1 regulation loss to the University of Michigan.
“That’s a tough one for us,” said Minnesota forward Nathan Burke. “We had high expectations coming into the weekend.”
Head coach Bob Motzko echoed the frustration of the night, and of the past few weeks for the Gophers. “A very disappointing [performance] by us,” Motzko said postgame. “Standing here pretty disappointed, we had some guys that did not have good nights.”
However, with Michigan State and Notre Dame going into a second overtime on Saturday night, the Gophers were still able to clinch home-ice advantage in next weekend’s Big Ten playoffs. When informed of this fact during the media scrum following the game, Motzko said, “See you next week,” and headed back to the locker room.
In a way, it symbolized the mentality his team needs to have heading into the playoffs against Notre Dame next weekend. The Gophers need to quickly toss this weekend — and the past few weekends — in the trash and quickly reset for the playoffs.
Michigan and Minnesota played to a scoreless first, where the Gophers killed off two Wolverine power plays that briefly crossed over for a 5-on-3 advantage. But in the second, Michigan opened the scoring halfway through the frame and the Gophers quickly answered on Burke’s third goal of the season.
The Gophers dominated the remainder of the period following Burke’s goal, as they tallied eight unanswered shots on goal to bring the shot count from 21-10 Michigan to 21-18 to end the period. While there was hope that the Gophers could carry that momentum to start the third, they got off to another slow start, as they did all game, and Michigan was able to capitalize just 2:13 into the final frame on a Nick Granowicz goal.
“I’m surprised we didn’t have it to start the first. Start the second. Last 10 minutes of the third,” Motzko said when asked on the slow start of the third.
That was all Michigan needed to close the door, as the Gophers were able to get chances, but the defense or shots just plain missing the net did not help Minnesota’s cause to get the game tied. And as the Gophers’ coach said, the team just could not get anything going in the game’s final 10 minutes.
After the game, Motzko credited Michigan on how good the team played to secure the 2-1 victory in front of 9,613 fans at 3M Arena at Mariucci. “That was a great performance by Michigan,” the coach declared.
After Friday’s 2-2 tie and the 2-1 loss Friday, Motzko reflected on how the team needed to get more in gear for playoff games and thought the team’s youth/inexperience was showing its head again. “I’m standing here frustrated,” Motzko said. “Down the stretch, everything got amped up. Our inexperience showed up [and] we went 2-3-3.”
Motzko did also proclaim the Gophers were a much better team than they were to begin the season, but there were still improvements to come as they prepare to host next weekend’s Big Ten playoffs against Notre Dame.
Minnesota will kick off the best-of-three series at 3M Arena at Mariucci on Friday night in the hopes of getting off to much better starts so they can have a chance of advancing on.