Minneapolis, MN – The best of times are still to come in the Motzko era.
Tonight, it was the worst of times. After the game, coach Motzko knew it: “it was not a very good performance by a Gopher hockey team tonight.”
The Minnesota Gophers (2-5-1 Overall, 1-1-0 B1G) lost to the St. Lawrence Saints (2-8-0, 0-2-0 ECAC) in overtime, a two-goal third period rally by the Gophers to tie the game late thwarted by a St. Lawrence overtime goal.
“[The bad game] blindsided us tonight,” said Motzko, who thought the team would build off of a “good weekend” in Madison, where the Gophers played well and walked away with a road split. “But what we saw tonight [against St. Lawrence], we’ve seen it this year. We’re trying to change it, we’re trying to get on top of it. You kind of take two steps forward and then a couple steps back.”
The Gophers and Saints played even up in the first, with the Saints taking a 1-0 lead on a powerplay tally at 15:31 of the first. Minnesota answered back quickly when Rem Pitlick buried a backdoor pass from Brent Gates Jr. at 17:26 to tie the game at 1-1.
The second period was one of the Gophers’ worst periods of the season. St. Lawrence came into the game averaging 20 shots on goal per game, and the Saints generated 20 shots in the second period alone, including two goals, to increase their lead to two goals at 3-1.
Minnesota came roaring back in the third, scoring two goals of their own in the 3rd period to tie the game. Asked whether the coach gave a rousing speech to rally the troops in the final stanza, Motzko deflected that will onto his players. “They had to rally, because it was a very poor period,” Motzko stated. “It’s got to come from internally.”
Tyler Nanne got the Gophers within one at 6:21 of the third, joining a shorthanded rush and deflecting a Brent Gates pass into the St. Lawrence net. Jack Sadek tied the game at 15:22 when his wrister from the point found the back of the net.
Afterwards, Sadek talked about the need to play well for the whole game: “Obviously, you could tell by the third period we came out to play. We can’t just play for 20 minutes, we’ve got to play for the full 60.”
The overtime period looked good for Minnesota, with the Gophers getting some quality looks, but in the end it was a turnover in the defensive zone that led to a St. Lawrence goal and ended the game at 4-3 in favor of the visitors.
The Gophers take on St. Lawrence Saturday in the series finale. The puck drops at 7PM. The game is not televised, but the athletic department reached an agreement to stream the game for free on Facebook Live.
“Hopefully we rebound tomorrow and have a better day,” said Motzko. “So now you’re living one bad day instead of two.”
At this point, it’s one step at a time. Hopefully, those steps are forward more often than backward.