Minneapolis, Minn. — When it comes to conference play, Gophers coach Don Lucia has often said you want to sweep at home and split on the road. No. 13 Minnesota couldn’t get either with No. 1 Notre Dame this season, falling 4-1 in front of 9,890 at 3M Arena at Mariucci.
Notre Dame (20-5-1, 14-2-0) got a pair of power play goals from Jordan Gross in the first and Jake Evans in the second and never relinquished the lead. Minnesota (16-13-1, 7-10-1-1) got their lone goal from Brannon McManus to provide some spark heading into the second intermission, but struggled to really ever get control of the game.
“I thought the more determined team won tonight, I thought that we knew there would be pushback from Notre Dame, there’s a reason they have the record that they do,” Lucia said. “They controlled play in the first, they had the puck a lot, seemed to win the races and any scrum or battle they would come away with the puck.”
Mat Robson stopped 26 pucks for Minnesota in his second consecutive start for the Gophers and was steady for most of the game, but his team put Notre Dame on six power play chances and the Fighting Irish scored on three of them.
McManus said the team tried to do the same thing they did on Friday and started out okay, but it was obvious Notre Dame didn’t take losing easily and taking penalties led to the loss.
“We have to understand that if we’re going to be successful, we’re going to have to win 2-1 type of games, and try to lock it down a little more,” Lucia said. “Hopefully we can find our specialty teams because that ultimately we’re minus three on specialty teams tonight, that ultimately was the difference in the game. I know we’re not good enough to be undisciplined, I know we’re not good enough to take penalties in the offensive zone.”
Once the Gophers were down, it was hard for them to get back into the game as they only managed 39 shot attempts, getting 16 shots on Notre Dame goalie Cale Morris. The Fighting Irish blocked eight shots including five in the third period.
“We played here four years ago, this senior class what’s left of it after the NHL picked it apart, they were here when got drubbed here for two games. I remember Cal Peterson looking pretty human that weekend as a freshman,” said Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson. “This is a great program, symbol of the Big Ten, great buildings, great crowds. It’s just been really impressive everywhere we’ve been is first class, it’s going to be fun to be apart of this conference.
Edina native Dylan Malmquist had the third and fourth goals for Notre Dame and said the difference Saturday was everyone buying into the system and blocking shots.
“Being from Minnesota you grow up watching the Gophers, it’s always fun to come back playing those guys that you know. Great experience. Great building,” Malmquist said. “We really just focused on our systems, locked down defensively, Cale played great like he usually does and we got a couple bounces.”
Lucia said it was important for the Gophers to get a win out of this weekend as they’re in a battle with Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Wisconsin for home ice in the Big Ten. It’s also important for the team going on bye next week as the flu has run through the roster and Lindgren and Mittelstadt will get a break since returning from world juniors.
“Our next games are going to be in February and I don’t think we have a 10-goal scorer on our team right now,” Lucia said. “We’re not going to win it with offense, we’re going to have to find a different way.”
Minnesota will have that opportunity against Wisconsin February 9 and 10 in Madison.