Gophers Drop USHHOF Matchup
Notre Dame Special Teams, Defense Too Much For Slumping Gophers
The Gophers made it interesting at the end; but generally speaking when you play as poorly as they did for the first 25 minutes of the game, and make the defensive mistakes they keep making, the 4 – 3 final was a bit misleading. Two late Gopher goals couldn’t close the gap as the Gophers fall to Notre Dame and end their non-conference schedule with a poor 4 – 4 – 1 record heading into the 2nd half of conference play.
The first period was total Jeff Jackson hockey. The Gophers had a five minute power play early on as the Irish version of Nick Larson checked Kyle Rau from behind and was sent to the showers. But the Gophers did nothing with it and looked the part of a disinterested team.
“I thought they dictated the play early” said coach Lucia. “We kind of got better – at times – as the game went on, but we couldn’t find the rhythm to our game tonight.”
And it was the Irish that got the lead with a power play goal with just under two minutes to go in the period. The Gophers had a couple of chances to clear the puck, and their inability to do so put the puck on the stick of Notre Dame’s best player. TJ Tynan snapped a rebound past Patterson – and as the period ended shots on goal were 14 – 5 for the Irish. Things – quite frankly couldn’t have been a whole lot worse.
“We came out kind of sloppy and not playing Gopher hockey” said a clearly frustrated Taylor Matson, about the first period. “We’re kind of underachieving right now, and looking for answers right now” said the Gopher captain.
And it’s certainly not like things got better as the second period got going. However, after 7 or 8 minutes of just bad hockey, the Gophers got a power play and took advantage. They worked the puck in the zone for almost the entire two minutes, getting several great chances. Then, after taking advantage of an Irish player with no stick, Taylor Matson whacked home his 7th goal of the year from the goalmouth. Ben Marshall’s shot from the point got through a mess of traffic and Matson’s third attempt at it got it over Irish goalie Steven Summerhays.
The game picked up pace at this point as both teams went up and down the ice at speeds Jeff Jackson is not comfortable with. Chances for both teams as the Irish added to their shots hitting the post total.
Seth Ambroz then went to the box – for a shoulder to shoulder hit that probably seemed worse than it was real time – and the Irish capitalized as Riley Sheahan one timed a cross ice pass past Patterson as the crowd booed over the penalty call.
The Gophers didn’t lose energy over this though, and gained a power play. But it went the wrong direction after another mistake by the defense. Riley Sheahan – easily the player of the game – pounced on a bouncing puck and he raced in from his own blue line and toasted Patterson’s glove hand.
The third period was a lot of Notre Dame left wing lock to start – and some excitement to end it. The Gophers really didn’t break through for much and Jeff Costello pretty much ended it with a quick shot off of a faceoff in the Gopher zone with six minutes remaining.
That didn’t deter the Gopher effort; but too little, too late. They gained a power play and Nick Bjugstad put one in with 2:47 left. Then 31 seconds later, Zach Budish cleaned up a rebound for his second goal of the year. The Gophers buzzed and the crowd was on edge, but they couldn’t get the equalizer.
“We couldn’t get sustained pressure” said Lucia, talking about not only the last minute but the whole game. “And we had a few guys struggle a little bit tonight. They were the better team.”
Basically, Matson, Bjugstad and Lucia all said the same things after the game. They didn’t come out and play the way they wanted to, and that cost them against a top team like Notre Dame. The players and Lucia didn’t come out and talk to the media for an extended period of time afterwards, much longer than normal. Matson was still in full uniform and Bjugstad confirmed the coaches “gave it to us”. We’ll see how the team reacts this week leading into their trip to Grand Forks. The Gophers have slumped quite a bit since they played that team last and this weekend will be walking into a buzz saw. Late next Saturday night I have a feeling we’ll see exactly where this team sits heading into the last 6 weeks of their schedule.