Minneapolis, MN – “We let that one slip through our fingers tonight.”
First-year head coach Bob Motzko lamented the one that got away, as the Gophers blew a 2-0 lead and fell to Michigan State 4-2 Saturday evening.
After a pair of powerplay goals put the Minnesota Gophers (4-6-1 Overall, 2-2-0 B1G) ahead in the second, costly mistakes resulted in two late-second period goals to tie the game for the Michigan State Spartans (5-7-0, 1-3-0). The Spartans added another pair of goals in the third to seal the win, as MSU shut the door on a hard-charging Gopher comeback attempt to earn a road split.
After a ho-hum first period, the Gophers took advantage of special teams to take a 2-0 lead in the middle frame. Tyler Sheehy got both the PP goals, one at 10:09 and another at 12:27, to put the Gophers ahead by a pair.
The two power play goals “should’ve been our put a foot down, take control of the game” moment for the Gophers according to Motzko.
MSU fought their way back and took advantage of a couple late Minnesota mistakes to tie the game up at the end of the second. Taro Hirose scored MSU’s first goal at 18:03 when a puck deflected to his stick all alone in front of the Gopher goal, and Hirose again made a great play at 19:14 when he deked Sampo Ranta behind the goal-line before finding Patrick Khodorenko in front for the goal.
“We made just colossal mistakes,” said Motzko, “which we hadn’t really seen in a while, but they were bad mistakes.”
“They got back in the game, and the whole energy switched.”
Michigan State added goals in quick succession in the third, at 7:24 and 9:42, to take a two goal lead with just over 10 minutes left to go in the period. The Gophers pressed hard in the latter half of the third, rallying and putting shots on goal, but MSU was able to keep the puck out of the net.
After the game, Motzko pointed to the end of the third period as the turning point: “Just real disappointed that when we had that 2-0 lead, that we didn’t take charge of the game.” Again, later in the interview: “I’m just disappointed that we didn’t take that next step in the game with the 2-0 lead.”
The team’s biggest area of improvement is in energy level. Motzko expounded on this after the game: “We were fighting that energy thing tonight, I wish I had a word for it. We had it last night. Right now we only have it one night a weekend, didn’t have it tonight. That happens some nights. You don’t come with that same intensity every single game. But you know what? In certain games you’ve got to find it. Once we had the 2-0 lead we should’ve found it.”
“We have to evolve into a team that has that spirit and that energy two nights in a row.”
Lastly, Motzko echoed everyone’s sentiments: “That’s a frustrating one.”
What’s the next step for the head coach? “Go back to work. I wish I had better news.”
Minnesota hosts #5 Ohio State next weekend. Friday’s game is at 7PM, while Saturday’s tilt is at 4.