Minnesota had no trouble putting shots on target against Notre Dame.
Only one problem — those shots didn't go in.
The Gophers had the shot advantage in both games against the Fighting Irish, but they scored just two goals in the series and didn’t come out with a victory. Notre Dame, a new conference opponent, swept Minnesota with a 1-0 win Friday and 5-2 win Saturday.
The 1-0 score in Friday’s game reflected its close play, with one shot determining the result.
In the first game between the two teams since the NCAA tournament, Notre Dame (12-3-1, 6-0-0-0 Big Ten) prevailed 1-0 in the defensively sound game.
“We did so many good things [Friday],” head coach Don Lucia told reporters Friday. “I couldn’t have asked much more from our players, the way they played and competed from start to finish. We just couldn’t get one by him.”
Lucia was correct. Minnesota (9-6-1, 3-4-1-1 Big Ten) was shutout for the first time since the second game against North Dakota this season, over a month ago.
The Gophers continued their trend that started in the last game against Harvard — pressuring opposing goalkeepers with a lot of shots. In the last game of the Harvard series, Minnesota had 50 shots, but only two goals. Against Notre Dame Friday, the Gophers had 44 shots and no goals to show for it.
Notre Dame’s goaltender Cale Morris stole the show from Minnesota, saving all 44 shots he faced. Goaltender Eric Schierhorn didn’t have the game Morris had, but still gave his team a chance to win, allowing one goal on 23 shots.
“I think we played well,” forward Leon Bristedt told the media Friday. “We put up the shots, we put up the scoring chances, we just couldn’t put the puck in the net.”
Minnesota dominated stretches of the offensive play, but had trouble getting high-danger chances in close, and with two teams both ranked top-six in the nation, both teams are competitive in each aspect of the game.
Bristedt had the most shots of a single player for Minnesota, with seven. Forward Rem Pitlick was close behind with six.
Minnesota’s play on Saturday looked similar to Friday, except the third period. The Gophers outshot the Irish 37-16 in the first two periods, but were outshot 19-5 in the third period.
Forward Mike Szmatula came into the weekend with only two goals on the season, but after Saturday’s loss, he was the only Gophers skater who scored, notching two goals on the power play.
“I feel like the whole weekend, I was going to the net hard,” Szmatula told the media Saturday. “I just try to play in the dirty areas and I got a couple nice passes.”
Notre Dame won its eighth and ninth consecutive games this season in the sweep. They are atop the Big Ten standings with six wins and zero losses in conference play.
The Gophers fell to 3-4-1-1 in the conference and sit one spot ahead of the Badgers, Minnesota’s opponent next weekend.
“We didn’t end up scoring a five on five goal all weekend,” Lucia told the media Saturday. “All [we ended up with were] two power play goals.”