Although it won't officially count in the record books, the Minnesota men's hockey team lost an exhibition match in heartbreaking fashion to U.S. National Under-18 team, 2-1.
Team USA forward Landon Slaggert capitalized on a sloppy Gophers turnover late in third period, making them pay for the mistake in the form of the game-winning goal.
The result didn't have any effect on Minnesota's standings, and a displeased head coach Bob Motzko said after the game that it was painfully obvious.
"It was an exhibition game and half of our guys played like an exhibition game... We didn't get interested until the third; we got interested then we were pretty good until one mistake," Motzko told the media.
After the scoreless first period, the Gophers fell behind on the scoreboard halfway through the second period. Team USA scored on a rather unorthodox play with forward Luke Tuch sending a long stretch pass from the Gophers' offensive zone up to teammate Thomas Bordeleau, who scored on Justen Close to put the score at 1-0.
Despite several chances, including attempts from a Sampo Ranta fresh off a stint with his native Team Finland at the IIHF World Junior Championship, the Gophers still struggled offensively. Even with two power-play opportunities, they put on only eight shots in the second period. Their lucky break finally came in the third period when Scott Reedy scored with assists from Ranta and Ryan Zuhlsdorf to tie the game at one. The goal gave the Gophers a much-needed spark, and they played with more intensity afterward. Reedy's goal came with seven minutes remaining in the period, and with Minnesota more dialed in than earlier, it looked like they would be able to push the game to overtime until the fateful turnover that led to USA's game-winning goal.
Minnesota has had its fair share of trouble with turnovers this season, and while the Gophers were able to force some turnovers from USA's young forwards, they struggled to generate much offense early in the game. They ended the first period with just four shots and didn't convert on any of their three power play opportunities.
Minnesota will be back to Big Ten play next weekend, where they will face Ohio State at 3M Arena at Mariucci on Friday and Saturday.