The Gophers produced the offense that the Minnesota coaching staff was waiting for, but it wasn’t enough for the win.
Minnesota lost on Friday 5-4 in overtime, and tied 6-6 on Saturday against the Wolverines in Ann Arbor, Michigan this weekend, dropping their record to 7-4-1 this season.
“I thought we had good energy,” head coach Don Lucia told reporters Saturday. “I thought we played hard, and, for the most part, played pretty smart.”
Minnesota had a chance at winning both games on the weekend. Friday, it got out to a 3-0 lead, but lost in overtime 5-4. Saturday, the Gophers had a 4-0 lead, then went up 5-2 and finally, 6-3. Those didn’t last, either, and Minnesota settled for a 6-6 tie, with an extra point from the shootout Saturday.
Minnesota's performance over the weekend was a story of unusual mistakes for the team.
Michigan continued to close the score gap on Saturday, and took momentum to score fast on goaltender Eric Schierhorn. Until this weekend, Schierhorn averaged 1.8 goals allowed per game. He gave up five Friday and six Saturday, well above that average.
The Gophers might have had their share of defensive struggles and goaltending setbacks, but the offense showed improvement. While the Gophers did allow 11 goals this weekend, they scored 10.
The usual suspects for Minnesota scored Saturday, with goals coming from captain Tyler Sheehy, and forwards Rem Pitlick and Tommy Novak. Pitlick and Novak are first and second, respectively, among Gophers scorers this season.
Like Saturday, Minnesota and Michigan needed more than 60 minutes Friday, and those extra minutes ended the Gophers’ win streak at four games.
The game came down to less than two minutes left in overtime and Pitlick got called for a tripping penalty. On the ensuing faceoff from the penalty, Michigan forward Alex Roos scored to elevate the Wolverines to a 5-4 opening night win.
“Their first goal was their first scoring chance against in the second period,” Lucia told reporters Friday. “We just had the game we wanted and then let them back in.”
Though the game ended in overtime after a back-and-forth third period, Minnesota got out a big lead in the second. The Gophers scored three goals in 5:58 in the second period.
After that, it looked like the Gophers might have enough of a cushion to get their fifth consecutive victory, but the Wolverines weren't going to let Minnesota take game one that easily on their home ice. Early in the third period, Michigan tied the game, and the momentum shifted to the Gophers' opponent.
Minnesota’s Michigan natives both scored in the game, including Brent Gates Jr. scoring the Gophers’ final goal, at the time putting them ahead 4-3.
“We never want to sit back and play a boring defensive game when we have the lead,” Gates told reporters Friday. “But at the same time, we need to be smart when we take our chances and know not to.”
Turnovers in the neutral zone and sloppy passes by the Gophers left openings for the Wolverines, and they made sure to capitalize on them.
Minnesota will have to reset for its match against Harvard this Friday and Saturday.
“A couple leads blown and it ends up as not a weekend that we want,” Sheehy told reporters Friday. “It’s frustrating. Let’s re-evaluate this week.”