Bulldogs prolong Gophers’ misery
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Coach Don Lucia watched his Minnesota Gophers hockey team control a third period and thought to himself the struggling Gophers might be finding their way again.
When the period was over, it encapsulated just what Minnesota has been through the past two months.
The Gophers outshot Minnesota Duluth 11-2 in Saturday’s third period, and held the Bulldogs without a shot for more than 17 minutes of the third.
Minnesota Duluth’s first shot on goal in the period was the difference, though, as Minnesota lost 2-1 in the consolation game of the North Star College Cup.
"The way we were playing, and then like what’s happened, we just don’t make a play at the end of the game either to win it or preserve a tie," Lucia said.
Adam Wilcox made 24 saves for the Gophers (11-9-2, 2-2-2-0 Big Ten) and Kyle Rau scored his eighth goal of the season, but Minnesota lost both games of the weekend tournament and has lost eight of its past 13 games.
"We’re disappointed," Rau said. "Two minutes to go, we win a draw and we can’t get it out and they score. That’s what happens. We haven’t closed out games multiple times this year. It’s getting frustrating."
Saturday’s matchup featured the two teams which played for the tournament title last year, when the Gophers won in a shootout.
The Gophers entered the tournament reeling a bit, with their offense surprisingly an issue for the talented team. Minnesota scored three times in two tournament games, and only once in 5-on-5 play.
"It’s been that way," Lucia said. "It’s not like it’s something new. It seems like with our team we get one, two or five. There’s no three or four a night. This weekend was a good example."
The Gophers entered the third period down 1-0 before Rau scored on the power play. The goal jumpstarted Minnesota and it controlled play in the third.
Minnesota Duluth, which had swept the Gophers earlier this season starting Minnesota’s poor stretch, didn’t have a shot on goal in the period until Adam Krause scored his second of the game with 2 minutes, 11 seconds left in the game.
Following a faceoff in their defensive zone, the Gophers couldn’t clear the puck. Bulldogs forward Dominic Toninato sent the puck back deep in the zone, where Alex Iafallo turned and sent a blind pass to the middle of the ice. Krause was alone in the slot and beat Wilcox with a backhand shot.
"You look at the third period, we killed it for 18 minutes and then they scored," Rau said. "You see when we start playing with urgency we have a good team but the problem is we don’t get there for the full 60."
Instead of proving itself against the other teams in Minnesota, the Gophers were leaving the rink disappointed again after dropping two games within the state and with a remaining schedule of Big Ten teams.
"Obviously they expect to win every time they play and it’s been a rough go," Lucia said of his Gophers. "But I saw some signs tonight that if Adam continues to play like he did tonight, if we can play like we did in the third throughout games . . . The difference being getting some goals; all of a sudden we score a goal in the third and what happens? You get energized."
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