Duluth, Minn. – The Gophers didn’t let their Friday night loss to Minnesota Duluth carry over into an afternoon game before a sparse crowd at Amsoil Arena on Saturday. Goaltender Eric Schierhorn earned his ninth career shutout, behind only the school record 13 held by Kellen Briggs and Adam Wilcox, with 26 saves, and #3 Minnesota got past #16 Union 2-0 on goals by Casey Mittelstadt and Rem Pitlick.
After a night where all the players talked about an opening ten minute stretch where they were outshot 10-1 by #6 Minnesota Duluth, they cited an improved effort and energy as they outshoot the Dutchmen 12-4 on Saturday.
“I think we were a little reserved yesterday, today we were determined to go out and get it,” said Schierhorn. “You could see if from the puck drop, the first ten minutes yesterday we had one shot, ten minutes today we had 12.”
Schierhorn said he didn’t feel as good Saturday as he did on Friday when he made 40 saves on 44 shots, that he let loose a couple rebounds he didn’t want to let out, but his defense played really well, and getting a win was all that matters.
Schierhorn also picked up his fifth career assist, starting a rush that lead to Pitlick’s power play goal midway through the second period.
The two squads played a 0-0 first period where Gophers coach Don Lucia felt his team played really well, and that eased his mind because that’s what he was looking for as much as a win.
“We’ve all been around the game enough you can play well and not win, but I know it’s not very often you can not play well and win,” said Lucia.
The line chart order was shifted around between games this weekend as Ryan Norman-Darian Romanko-Joey Marooney were listed atop the chart and experienced players Leon Bristedt-Tommy Novak-Tyler Sheehy were listed at the bottom. Lucia said he knew the older guys felt they didn’t play to the level they were capable of playing at and they responded with some better effort.
One line that didn’t get messed around with was the RPM line of Scott Reedy, Pitlick, and Mittelstadt. The trio were the most consistently line for the maroon and gold on the weekend, scoring three of the team’s five goals on the weekend, and displaying the most chemistry of any combination. Mittelstadt got his first collegiate goal Saturday after getting his first point on an assist last night.
“We’re just getting used to it still, we had a lot more speed tonight,” said Pitlick. “We’re only going to get better and better, we have a great core group of players, talent, and skill.”
The Gophers finished the night 1-for-5 on the power play and 5-for-5 on the penalty kill after going 1-for-6 on the power play and 4-for-6 on the penalty kill on Friday. Lucia said the killers were tighter, didn’t give up seam passes, and Schierhorn was there to make a save on the few breakdowns. One adjustment they’ll likely make for Penn State next weekend will be getting Mittelstadt on the penalty kill.
“We got to get Casey on the penalty kill next week–we didn’t want to do it this early, but he’s too good of a player to be sitting there for five minutes in a kill situation,” said Lucia. “The more he learns it, the more comfortable we’ll be to start feeding him more.”
Lucia added that he doesn’t think the lines will stick next weekend when Penn State visits 3M Arena at Mariucci.
“I don’t if the power plays are meshing with the groups we have, so there’s a good chance we’ll move some things around this week in preparation for Penn State,” Lucia said. “But that’s what you need to do, it’s early, much like last year we had some combinations that we thought would work well together, and we had to switch after a few weeks. I didn’t want to do it today, because I just thought some of those older guys, the competitiveness, the intelligence they played with last night wasn’t indicative of what we’ve seen… I just wanted another game to see how the lines would work.”