Gophers Get Five of Six at Yost, Prep for Series with Penn State

During availability Bob Motzko said after getting five of six from Michigan he did what all old coaches do, go through the film and pick out all the things the team did wrong. The head hockey coach has said during the first ten games that he has to remember to be patient with this team and he quickly turned his focus back to the things they did well. The Gophers killed off all nine shorthanded situations and his goalies each delivered strong nights with Jack LaFontaine making 33 saves on 34 shots in his return to Yost and Jared Moe making a career high 38 saves on 39 shots.

Goaltending was one of the biggest question marks coming into the season and their junior transfer goalie had to overcome the adrenaline of going back to Yost on Friday.

LaFontaine shared that during the first ten minutes he was breathing pretty heavy and that the Children of Yost were ruthless.

“’They knew too much stuff, it was weird,” LaFontaine said. “They had ex-girlfriend dirt. They had everything.”

The Michigan transfer goalie looked much calmer than he has in the past–minimized rebounds and didn’t overplay shots. He wore some blinders the other week in practice during warm ups to help him focus on getting his body centered on pucks instead of making peripheral saves–maybe it paid off.

The strong goaltending also translated to a strong penalty kill. The Gophers killed off nine shorthanded opportunities against the Wolverines to follow up a strong killing weekend where they killed off four of five chances against Notre Dame the weekend before.

Looking ahead, Motzko said that usually getting to three is good enough to win, but that’s not the case with Penn State. Just look at how they’ve opened up B10 play by scoring six, six and five in their wins and putting out 100 shot attempts in the game they got shut out by Michigan State.

“They have the most potent offense in college hockey, I’m convinced of it. I picked them first [in the conference poll]…. better respect it or they’ll make you pay,” Motzko said.

Star Tribune jack of all trades sportswriter Michael Rand was on hand at availability to ask if it’s time to get over the breakup of the old WCHA and the newness of the B10, and maybe time to embrace the rivalry with Penn State. Afterall, they’re a team that has been a thorn in Minnesota’s side the past couple seasons.

Motzko basically admitted that there are a lot of smart hockey fans that follow the Gophers and they want to see his team winning.

He’s working on getting his team to score some goals, most of the guys were recruited to Minnesota to score goals and there are too many of them sitting at one or zero goals scored. The coach feels comfortable that they’re going to get there, but it’s going to take work. He cited the Wait-Sorenson-Brodzinski line as one generating five Grade A chances, but not getting any goals.

Motzko on his coaching show talked about how some guys have never really gone through 10 game stretches where goals were hard to come by in hockey–they’re used to success and that’s why they’re here. Still… it’s something that all hockey players have to learn and work through without getting frustrated. The Gophers power play is scoreless in its last 15 man advantage situations — something that has to be remedied for a team struggling for offense.

The Gophers will take on a veteran Penn State squad this weekend that will give opportunities and could be a get healthy game for players looking to get on the scoresheet. Guy Gadowsky’s team has a lot of returning talent and players that passed up professional contracts for a chance to accomplish something special in ‘Hockey Valley.’

Junior forward Evan Barrat has delivered some big hits and scored some key goals in the past with Minnesota and he won’t be alone for scoring up front with seniors Brandon Biro, Denis Smirnov, Liam Fokes and junior Alex Limoges supporting him.

The one new piece for Penn State is Minnesota transfer Clayton Phillips who switched schools and was ruled immediately eligible to play this season.

Gophers defenseman Ryan Zuhlsdorf is looking forward to seeing the fellow Edina HS player and wish him the best of luck although he hopes to keep him off the scoresheet.