Gophers hockey can’t fend off Colgate

Friday's game technically counts as a tie against a nonconference foe for Minnesota, but it felt like a loss, especially after the top-ranked Gophers lost their shootout with Colgate.

MINNEAPOLIS — For the third time this season, the Gophers men’s hockey team experienced a tie that felt like a loss. This one, however, cost Minnesota a chance at a trophy.

The No. 1-ranked Gophers forced overtime Friday against visiting Colgate before losing, 3-2, in a shootout in the first round of the Mariucci Classic. A win would have set Minnesota up for a matchup against No. 2 Ferris State in the tournament’s title game. Instead, the Raiders earned a spot in that championship with the upset, while the Gophers will now face RPI in the consolation game.

"We have three ties on our record, but we’ve lost all three games in a shootout," said Gophers assistant coach Mike Guentzel. "It’s a hollow feeling in the dressing room."

When Ferris State beat RPI in the early game Friday, it seemed like the 1-2 matchup was all but set. All Minnesota had to do was get past a Colgate team that came into Mariucci Arena with a 7-9-2 record this season.

Easier said than done, as it turned out.

The Gophers didn’t use rust as an excuse, even though they hadn’t played in nearly a month. They also didn’t blame the loss on playing without Brady Skjei and Hudson Fasching, who played for Team USA in the World Juniors — which was coached by Minnesota head coach Don Lucia.

Instead, credit was given where it was due after the shootout loss.

"They’re a good team," Guentzel said of Colgate. "They’ve played a good schedule this year. They’ve played some of the best teams. . . . We just have to find a way to get some guys scoring some goals."

Minnesota did score the first goal of the game when defenseman Michael Brodzinski fired a shot from the left faceoff circle that snuck its way past Colgate goalie Charlie Finn for a 1-0 lead just 2:25 into the second period. The Raiders answered later in the second, though, as Joe Wilson poked a loose puck past Gophers netminder Adam Wilcox. That gave underdog Colgate some momentum, as the Raiders scored again before the period was over to take a 2-1 lead into the third.

It took a power play goal from Travis Boyd with 9:29 to play in regulation to force overtime. After a scoreless five minutes that saw both teams have several scoring chances, the Gophers found themselves in their third shootout of the season. While the game technically counts as a tie against a nonconference foe, the shootout determined which team moved on to face Ferris State for the title.

Junior Kyle Rau, who earlier in the game notched his 100th career point with an assist on Boyd’s goal, was the only Gopher to score in the shootout. Colgate’s Ryan Johnston beat Wilcox as the Raiders’ third and final shooter to secure the 3-2 win and silence the Mariucci Arena crowd — and the Gophers’ bench.

"We came into this tournament hoping to advance to the next round, hoping to win a championship," said Gophers freshman Jake Bischoff. "Not playing in that championship game tomorrow definitely feels like a loss for us."

For Colgate, this tournament gives the Raiders a chance to face the top two teams in college hockey. Colgate coach Don Vaughan watched most of the Ferris State-RPI matchup earlier in day and knew his team could face the No. 2 team with a win Friday.

After upending the top-ranked Gophers, Colgate now has a chance to do the same against the second-ranked Bulldogs on Saturday.

"On any schedule, you look at it and you circle certain games on it. This was a game that I had circled," Vaughan said. "I thought this could be somewhat of a defining moment for our team to this point in the season."

It’s likely the Gophers had a potential date with Ferris State circled on their schedule, too. The only problem: that game wasn’t guaranteed. Now with Friday’s loss, Minnesota won’t get that chance at a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup.

"Last year we played 1-2 here against (Notre Dame) and beat them (4-1) and we were out in one game in the national tournament," Guentzel said. "I think it’s a process here. I think we have to build. I think we have to get better. . . . We have no excuses, whether it’s coaching, not scoring or being shorthanded, there’s no excuse for us. They’re a good team."

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