The first period in this game was ugly. The Gophers first line took three penalties in the first nine minutes of the game. First Leon Bristedt took a needless offensive zone penalty, and the Bulldog's Austin Farley made the Gophers pay for it.
Later, Kyle Rau took a silly after-the-whistle roughing penalty. Hudson Fasching (Buffalo Sabres) soon joined him the box for a stick infraction. Luckily, Adam Wilcox (Tampa Bay Lightning) stood on his head and killed off the 5-3 penalty kill, and the Gophers escaped the situation still down one goal.
Gopher Hockey Must Read
Gopher Hockey Must Read
Duluth out-skated and out-chanced through the first half of the period. For the Gophers, it was just a sloppy period. They couldn't make a pass, they couldn't catch a pass, they consistently loss footraces to open pucks. The first period was not a good effort, despite the improvement in the second half of the period.
The most glaring difference between this period and most Gophers hockey periods was the lack of offensive zone time and pressure. The Bulldogs played well in transition, picking up the puck, making one pass, and being out of their defensive zone.
It didn't help that the Gophers didn't see a power play in the first frame, and they were never really able to swing the momentum back the other way. The period ended with the Bulldogs in the lead 1-0 and outshooting the Gophers 15-7. Shot attempts were even more lopsided, 29-10.
Shots attempts are 29-10 Bulldogs. (5x5 13-9, Grade A 7-2) Wilcox deserves to get a stick-tap and/or hug from every one of his teammates.— Nate Wells (@gopherstate) November 15, 2014
The Gophers came out of the gate in the second period much better, putting three attempted shots on goal in the first minute. Those attempts didn't translate into a goal, but it was a nice start after the miserable first period.
Early in the period, Duluth's Dominic Toninato (Toronto Maple Leafs) took a jumping check at Rau and ended up putting a knee right on Rau's knee. Rau could barely stand on the leg on the bench, but managed to get back on the ice to take the play on a power play a couple minutes later. Minimally, Toninato should have been penalized for the jump on the check. Rau appeared to skate normally from that point on.
After killing the a penalty, Duluth again began pressing the play into the Minnesota end, and eventually would score midway through the period. At the time the goal was scored, Duluth was out-shooting the Gophers at a rate of 2 to 1, or 22 to 11 if you don't like simplified ratios. That shooting rate, as well as several resulted in a second Duluth goal.
The sloppy play that plagued the Gophers in the first period continued in the second. The most egregious problem was the Gophers inability to exit the defensive zone. That problem resulted in lots of dangerous defensive zone turnovers, or perhaps that causation was the other way around. The eventually resulted in Dan Molenaar goal.
At the end of the second, Bulldogs led 2-0, and the Gophers had not made much noise.
Score update after 2: I'd rather not talk about it.— Fake Don Lucia (@FakeDonLucia) November 15, 2014
PS, if you don't follow Fake Don Lucia, you should.
Locker room update: @NotMikeGuentzel lost his gum screaming at his D-men. Potulny is swearing repeatedly. I'm drinking red wine.— Fake Don Lucia (@FakeDonLucia) November 15, 2014
Austin Farley was a one-man offensive zone wrecking ball early in the third period. He kept the Gophers pinned by himself for almost a full minute. The Gophers didn't do much to help themselves in terms of playing with any speed at all. For some reason, carrying the puck was just about impossible for the Gophers tonight.
Four minutes into the third period, defenseman Jake Bischoff (New York Islanders) led the Gophers in shots on goal with four. This was a bad game.
Through the whole game, the Gophers were chasing the puck rather than playing in front of it. What I mean is this, they were very reactive rather than proactive. It's like they couldn't anticipate where the puck would be and spent the whole game just trying to keep up with the pace of the Bulldogs and the puck.
I was really impressed with Duluth tonight. They played an excellent game, just the kind of game you would like to see the Gophers play: fast, crisp, and disciplined.
The rest of the third period progressed exactly as the rest of the game had, and the Bulldogs skated to an easy looking 3-0 final score after Toninato added a power play goal in the third. It was the end of the Gophers 17 game unbeaten streak at Mariucci, and the first time they've been shut out this year.
If not for the heroics of Adam Wilcox, this game could have been much worse (at least on the scoreboard).
Of particular concern, again, is the number of unnecessary penalties the Gophers take. I'm fine with penalties that prevent scoring chances, but penalties after the whistle and penalties in the offensive zone are momentum killers. We'll see if the Gophers have a better game in them tomorrow night in Duluth.
I honestly was not going to mention the officiating in this recap, but the penalty on Christian Isackson was a terrible call. Here's the play, the puck is dumped into Duluth's end, Isackson and defender Willie Corrin pursue into the corner. Corrin pulls up to initiate contact with Isackson, who is two steps behind. Once the contact happens, Corrin goes to the ice, Isackson goes with him, and both players crash into the end wall, with Corrin hitting the wall with his forearms. There's no way Isackson should have received a five minute major penalty on that play.