Minnesota needed all of the conference points available Friday to stay in second place in the Big Ten.
Though the Gophers got out to a 2-0 lead after the first period, they let the lead slowly slip away and took another dip in their roller-coaster season with a 3-2 loss to Notre Dame. Although they started the game with a strong first period, the Gophers lost momentum when Notre Dame center Cam Burke scored to tie the game with just 2:47 left in the second period.
"We prepped hard all week," said freshman forward Nathan Burke. “No one really expected it, and I’m running out of things to say at this point.”
An early third period power play opportunity at 3:57 proved fruitless for the Gophers, and the foot further slipped from the pedal going into the final frame. Notre Dame right winger Colin Theisen scored his second of the game to give Notre Dame its first lead of a game not long after, and the Gophers struggled to regain any of the dominance they started the game with. Theisen's goal completed a comeback that started in the final minutes of the first period, when momentum swung in favor of the Fighting Irish.
This season for the Gophers has been fraught with inconsistent performances. This loss came on the heels of Minnesota earning two wins at Ohio State, which was then ranked No. 2 in the country.
The Gophers need to secure points in Saturday's game against the Fighting Irish if they have a shot at preserving home ice advantage in the Big Ten tournament. Saturday is Minnesota's last conference game, while teams around it in the standings have one last Big Ten series next weekend.
Players and coach alike were frustrated with Friday's result.
Head coach Bob Motzko pointed out the team often has a strong weekend of play one week and then makes it easy for their opponent to take home a win the next
Sophomore left winger Brannon McManus echoed these frustrations. He admitted the team lost its way in the second period, and lacked the drive that pushed them ahead to a lead in the first. T
Despite these frustrations, the Gophers had solid defensive play in the first period, and the team's strong shot blocking was appreciated by junior goaltender Mat Robson. Although he admitted the team got away from their systems a few times throughout the game, but believes the team will come back and battle hard against Notre Dame again Saturday.
After finishing the series against the Fighting Irish, the Gophers will conclude their regular season against Arizona State on March 1-2.
"I have no doubt at some point we're going to be really good again," Motzko said. "Thank goodness we've still got some runway left."