DULUTH -- If doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome is insanity, what is doing things differently and getting the same results? That is a question the Minnesota Gophers are left to ponder after a better effort versus Minnesota Duluth resulted in their second consecutive loss.
The Gophers got a goal from Mason Nevers and a strong effort in goal from Jack LaFontaine, but fell 2-1 to the Bulldogs on Saturday, Oct. 23, Amsoil Arena in Duluth.
Their record now stands at 3-3-0 and the Bulldogs continue to own their in-state rivals, having gone 12-1-1 in their past 14 head-to-head meetings with the Gophers.
“I hate losing two games in a weekend, I can tell you that, but we played a lot better tonight,” Gophers coach Bob Motzko said. “Their first goal bounced off three or four guys and got in there, and they didn’t have many quality chances, and we did, I felt. Give their goaltender the nod tonight. He was the best player on the ice, because we definitely had our chances.”
Bulldogs goalie Ryan Fanti stopped 28 shots, including 19 in the final 40 minutes as UMD improved to 5-1-0.
After a slow start doomed them in the opener of the series, the Gophers played a stronger first period on Saturday, and emerged with less to show for it. UMD built a 2-0 lead on one goal that pinballed through traffic and past LaFontaine, and a second goal where the goalie made the initial save, only to see a rebound pop right to a Bulldog at the side of the net.
It could actually have been worse, but LaFontaine’s blocker save thwarted a shorthanded breakaway by Kobe Roth near the midway point of the first.
Postgame comments from Minnesota Gophers coach Bob Motzko, forward Mason Nevers and defenseman Ben Brinkman following a 2-1 loss at Minnesota Duluth on Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021.
After a scoreless second period, the Gophers were controlling the offensive zone for long stretches early in the third and finally solved Fanti on a shot by Ryan Johnson that Nevers deflected high and into the Bulldogs net.
“We’ve been trying to stress low to high all game because they bunch it up in the middle. (Ben Meyers) got it up to (Johnson), (Johnson) got a great shot off and I had a little high tip that found its way home,” said Nevers of the strategy to finally solve Fanti.
The Gophers were playing without defenseman Mike Koster, who scored a goal in Friday’s 5-3 Bulldogs win in Minneapolis, but was injured later in the game. His status for next weekend’s Big Ten opening home series versus Notre Dame is unknown. The Gophers got an emotional boost from defenseman Ben Brinkman, who delivered a pair of thundering hip checks in the game and fired up the visitors’ bench.
“It was kind of just perfect timing. They came right down on me and I lined it up correctly. It felt good,” Brinkman said. “We’ve got a lot of good defensemen on this team, so when someone is out we can easily step in. I think we can improve a lot from where we are, but we’ll continue to grow.”
LaFontaine finished with 24 saves for the Gophers.
UMD 2, Minnesota 1
First period — 1. UMD, Tanner Laderoute 1 (Wyatt Kaiser, Connor Kelly), 10:51. 2. UMD, Blake Biondi 3 (Louie Roehl, Quinn Olson), 17:44. Penalties — Matt Staudacher, MIN (holding), 1:28; Olson, UMD (hooking), 5:56, Blake Biondi, UMD (tripping), 12:11, Ryan Johnson, MIN (holding), 13:12.
Second period — No scoring. Penalties — Olson, UMD (goaltender interference), 14:11.
Third period — 3. MIN, Mason Nevers 3 (Johnson, Ben Meyers), 6:26. Penalties — None.
Shots on goal — MIN 9-13-7—29; UMD 11-7-8—26. Goalies — Jack LaFontaine, MIN (26 shots-24 saves); Ryan Fanti, UMD (29-28). Power plays — MIN 0-of-3, UMD 0-of-2. Referees — Dan Dreger, Cameron Voss. Linesmen — Tony Aronson, Andy Dokken. Att. — 7,596.