St. Paul, Minn. – The Gophers came into the North Star College Cup with a chance to save their Pairwise Ranking with two quality wins. They left the tournament with two losses and still seeking the consistency required to win.
Lead by two goals from their captain Adam Krause, Minnesota Duluth (14-9-1) won the consolation game 2-1 over Minnesota (11-9-2) in the consolation game at Xcel Energy Center.
“We’re just a little deflated, we thought that game was ours,” said Kyle Rau. “We liked the way we played the whole game, Coxy played unreal. It’s just one of those games they capitalized on their chances, we had multiple chances to get ahead in the third and we couldn’t bury.”
Minnesota Duluth secured the lead 14:04 into the first period as Krause jammed away at a loose puck lost in Adam Wilcox’s pads for his third goal of the season. Dominic Toninato and Alex Iafallo got the assists, but it was the hard work of Krause on the goal line and the lack of focus from the Minnesota defense allowing Krause multiple whacks at the puck.
Minnesota’s play without the puck has been a sore spot for Don Lucia this season. Minnesota respond better during scrambles in front of their goaltender after allowing the opening goal, but the Bulldogs still tallied 12 shot attempts right on top of the paint Saturday. During the second period Wilcox looked like the 2013-14 version of himself by stonewalling attacks and freezing pucks to get his teammates changes at the end of long shifts.
The Gophers started the third period on the power play as Carson Soucy charged Boyd in final seconds of the second period. Mike Reilly one-timed a puck that ended up behind the net, Kloos worked the puck towards the top of the crease, and Rau beat his check to the puck and tied the game 1-1 for his eight goal of the season just 31 seconds into the period.
“We knew they were going to make a push,” said Scott Sandelin. “We knew how important that kill was, but unfortunately we didn’t get it and then we had to kind of weather that.”
The Gophers continued their push throughout the period, not allowing a shot on goal to the Bulldogs for over 17 minutes and tallying 11 of their own. Lucia felt that his team was starting to play the game the right way.
Unfortunately for Minnesota that first shot allowed was a big one. As the Gophers tried to clear their zone, Toninato forced a turnover at the blue line to get his team a transition opportunity. Iafallo sent the puck from the wall to a wide-open Krause and Krause beat Wilcox clean for his second goal of the game at 17:49.
“The third period we had chances to win the game. It goes off our stick, or shoot a puck wide, and then at the end we don’t make a play to get it out of our own zone and lose a little board battle four or five feet inside our blue line,” said Lucia. “We should have been in position with a lead the way we played in the third, that’s disappointing.”
Lucia thought that the Gophers did a better job supporting the puck in the third period, but hinted that his players haven’t been anticipating the play well enough and that they’ve been waiting too long to get their feet moving. “We’ve always stressed that it’s the first three steps, skate hard three steps, and then figure out what you need to do.”
The Gophers fell to 20th in the PWR after the loss and their remaining 14-game schedule includes #14 Michigan, #23 Penn State, #33 Ohio State, and #54 Wisconsin making it difficult for them to rise up the rankings. Ben Marshall said afterwards that the team can’t worry about what’s happened so far and they need to focus on each day.
“We’ve got to be ready, we’ve got to be an every day’er,” said Marshall. “We’ve got to show up on Monday forgetting this tournament and realizing that we need to get six points.”
GOLDEN NUGGETS: Lucia put Kloos back on top power play unit during the game with Rau, C. Reilly, Fasching, and M. Reilly, but wasn’t too concerned about the unit going 1-7 on the weekend. The coach was more concerned with finding some scoring 5-on-5… Don Lucia shortened his bench during the second period rolling with Rau-Justin Kloos-Connor Reilly, Sam Warning-Travis Boyd-Hudson Fasching, Leon Bristedt-Vinni Lettieri-Seth Ambroz.
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