The Minnesota Golden Gophers and North Dakota Fighting Hawks renewed college hockey’s best rivalry on Saturday, with North Dakota coming out victorious 3-1.
For Minnesota, the front end of their schedule continues to get harder as they come back to Minnesota this weekend for a two-game home, and away series against the number four ranked Minnesota State-Mankato Mavericks.
At 1-1-1, it is very tough to judge just how good this Gopher hockey team is. As of now, they are the only team to defeat and tie the number one ranked Duluth Bulldogs. This series against Mankato will help with determining just how legit the Gophers are.
For Minnesota to bounce back from a frustrating loss Saturday, they are going to need a few things to change.
Key 1: Stop Taking A Seat
Penalties are the one big negative that has followed the Gophers all three games, and it finally caught up with them on Saturday.
Minnesota committed eight penalties Saturday night; including, three in the third period that allowed Colton Poolman to net the eventual game-winner for UND.
The Gophers have committed 20 penalties throughout their first three games and have gone on the penalty kill 17 times. Thankfully, Mat Robson has been playing lights out this season, and the Gophers have been able to kill off 15 of those 17 opportunities.
But the Gophers cannot continue to take penalties at the rate they have been, and the team knows it. Bob Motzko touched on the team’s struggles with penalties after the game Saturday night. “It was terrible,” Motzko said, “That’s a sign right now of what’s going on that’s gotta get corrected, because their just senseless penalties.”
One positive to take away from it is that Minnesota seems to be acknowledging it as a problem so now they can start working towards limiting them down. Obviously, expecting zero penalties a game from the team is nearly impossible, but this season the Gophers have totaled up three interference penalties, two checking from behind penalties and four roughing penalties, with two of those resulting in game misconducts.
Penalties like those are merely a lack of discipline and control, which is good because it is something that can be corrected easily with the right players. Time will tell whether or not the Gophers can correct their mistakes, but hopefully, improvements happen this weekend against Mankato.
2. Mat Robson Stay Scorching
Mat Robson is the one consistent on the Gophers right now, and it has been that way since he took over as the starter last season. Fortunately for Minnesota, Robson is playing out of this world right now, and it is part of the reason as to why the Gophers are where they are.
Robson has been asked to face 30 or more shots in all three regular season games the Gophers have played, and he has come through in each of them. On 110 shots faced this season, the Junior goaltender is sporting a .936 save percentage and is only allowing 2.30 goals per game.
Robson is coming through at a big time for Minnesota while the rest of the team transitions to new head coach Bob Motzko’s play style.
This weekend the Gophers are hoping for another big game from Robson as they look to prove themselves against one of the best teams in the country, and Robson is battle-tested and prepared. In 14 games last season Robson stopped .933 percent of the shots he faced and only allowed 2.11 goals per game.
For Minnesota to win this weekend, they will need another gem from their goaltender, but they are confident that he will deliver. And they have every right to be.
3. Find The Offense
The Gophers’ offense seemed to stall out on Saturday night after starting off reasonably strong in the first and second periods.
One of the main weak points of North Dakota is their spotty goaltending and the Gophers never truly tested Adam Scheel in net, only managing 20 shots on goal.
Mankato has the same weaknesses. They have two new faces in net this season and even though they are 5-1-0, it is mostly due to the impressive play of their offense.
Freshman goalie Dryden McKay is 3-1-0 so far this season with a .878 save percentage and is allowing an ugly 3.52 goals per game. If he is in net, the Gophers will have to do what they failed to do against North Dakota, and that is get pucks on net. McKay’s counterpart, Mathias Israelsson started last weekend’s series against Alaska where he was lights out. Israelsson stopped 19 of the 20 shots he faced in the series allowing Mankato to dominate the series entirely.
The Gophers are going to have to be in full attack this weekend to keep up with Mankato. Veteran players like Rem Pitlick, Tommy Novak and Brent Gates Jr. are going to have to step up and light the spark for the rest of the team.