In their latest series against Minnesota-Duluth, the Gophers faced the Bulldogs team with something to prove.
After they got swept by Wisconsin, coach Bob Motzko said he anticipated facing an ornery Bulldogs squad ahead of the series. That's exactly what they got, falling 5-2 on Friday and 2-0 on Saturday.
Gophers find dynamic duo in loss
In the opening game on Friday, Minnesota found themselves behind on the scoreboard quickly after Kobe Roth scored for the Bulldogs seven minutes into the opening period. They were set even further back with two more unanswered goals scored in the second period, but in the last moments, the first line was able to break through after a line adjustment put freshman Ben Meyers and captain Sammy Walker together.
Meyers scored the first goal to get Minnesota on the board with just seconds left in the second period, and Walker had the primary assist. The goal was Meyer's first of the year. They continued to make an impact in the third period, as Walker scored to close the Duluth lead to one goal halfway through the period. This time, Meyers had the primary assist.
"We got two goals out of it ... he's a great player," Walker said.
Just as the momentum seemed to shift in favor of the Gophers, though, Duluth was able to regain its lead a minute later with a goal from Koby Bender. After Blake McLaughlin was called for hooking, Minnesota let one more goal in for the night, a power-play goal scored by Duluth's Scott Perunovich.
"You could tell in the first period they brought the intensity, and we were on our heels," Motzko said. "I think it's a game that will make us better."
Gophers blanked for first time since 2017
Despite getting a power play under a minute into Saturday's game, Minnesota fell behind again as Quinn Olson netted his first of the season six minutes into the period.
From there Minnesota struggled to stay out of the penalty box, with back-to-back calls against Ryan Johnson for slashing and McLaughlin for tripping. Duluth dominated the first period from there, and at the break they had outshot them 19-14.
The Gophers had power play chances in the second but often were called for penalties of their own, neutralizing the man advantage.
The third period was more even in terms of scoring opportunities, but it wasn't enough to get the Gophers on the board. Goaltender Jared Moe was pulled in the final minutes to give Minnesota an extra skater as the clock wound down, but the move had a negative effect. Jackson Cates scored on the empty net to pad Duluth's lead, and the game ended with Minnesota shutout from the scoreboard for the first time in almost two years.
"That was a much better effort by us tonight. It’s unfortunate we had to go through yesterday to get to this, but that’s just where we’re at,” Motzko told the media. “I liked how we responded … we had hockey players out there tonight. We just needed a puck to go through, and we couldn’t get one to go through.”