MINNEAPOLIS – Don Lucia took a breath and started his postgame media swarm with faint praise for his top-ranked Minnesota Gophers men’s hockey team.
"It was a good thing our goaltender was our best player, otherwise it could have been worse," Lucia said. "They were the better team tonight."
There was no no sugar-coating. Praising Adam Wilcox’s season-high 35 saves was as close to rewarding as Lucia and Minnesota could get after a 3-0 home loss Friday night to Minnesota-Duluth. Instead of looking like the nation’s top-ranked team, the Gophers were overwhelmed from the start by the 13th-ranked Bulldogs in the first game of the home-and-home series between the two teams this weekend.
Friday’s outcome snapped Minnesota’s 17-game home unbeaten streak, which had been the longest such streak in the nation.
Minnesota has a lot to think about on the long bus ride to Duluth for Saturday’s game.
"We couldn’t get anything going all night long," Lucia said. "They got to loose pucks. We couldn’t contain. It wasn’t our night tonight. They played very well and deserved to win the game."
Minnesota won the opening faceoff and had a breakaway play before losing the puck. Gophers freshman Leon Bristedt was called for a holding penalty 22 seconds in and the Bulldogs scored on the ensuing power play.
From then on, UMD looked like the team that belongs at the top of the national rankings. Through 10 minutes, the Bulldogs outshot Minnesota 11-1.
"It just kind of went downhill that first 10 minutes," Lucia said. "Sometimes you just don’t have your game and tonight we didn’t have our game."
Austin Farley scored his fourth goal of the season to give UMD the 1-0 lead. Dan Molenaar, a sophomore from Eden Prairie, scored in the second and Dominic Toninato scored his eighth goal of the season for the Bulldogs.
Finnish netminder Kasimir Kaskisuo secured his first shutout with 17 saves.
UMD coach Scott Sandelin talked to his team about the importance of a quick start against the Gophers. He got it with a swarming offense and a defense that controlled the neutral zone in the first period and didn’t allow Minnesota a chance to get on track.
"They’re always a quick-starting team here," Sandelin said. "I’ve lived that for 20 years when you play here. We harped on that all week. I think last weekend gave us some confidence how we played in St. Cloud the first periods. . . . I thought last Saturday against St. Cloud was our best one. I thought this was better than that. You need that to try and keep the game tight, get the lead and take the crowd out of it and stop their momentum from building because they can strike quick."
Check, check, check and check.
The Bulldogs outshot Minnesota 15-7 in the first, 10-6 in the second and 13-4 in the third period before the Gophers’ frustration became apparent.
Minnesota’s Mike Reilly was called for roughing with 9 minutes, 24 seconds left in the game. Seth Ambroz took a roughing penalty and was given an unsportsmanlike conduct a minute later, setting off a scrum behind the UMD net. Christian Isackson was called for boarding with less than five minutes left.
"I’m embarrassed with some of those penalties at the end," Lucia said. "That’s not the way we play. That’s not the way we coach. It just kind of summed up our guys and the frustration."