This game got off to an ugly start, as Minnesota-Duluth's Dominic Toninato (Toronto Maple Leafs) score just 28 seconds into the game on a rebound opportunity off a faceoff. The Minnesota Golden Gophers immediately found themselves behind the eight ball.
Despite the early goal, the Gophers looked better Saturday night than the did playing at home the night before. They were able to establish a little offensive zone time thanks to two early Bulldog penalties. The power play didn't score in their first two opportunities due to Duluth's high-pressure defensive zone style.
Even though the Gophers established zone time in the first, they did not create many quality scoring opportunities.
With four minutes to go in the first, Hudson Fasching (Buffalo Sabres) was called for interfering with Toninato at center ice, and Duluth's scored on the ensuing power play. Karson Kuhlman tipped a shot from the point over Adam Wilcox's (Tampa Bay Lightening) shoulder to put the Bulldog's up 2-0.
The Gophers got a late power play when Justin Crandall put a leg out and put a knee-on-knee hit on Michael Brodzinski (San Jose Sharsk) the second such hit from a Bulldog on a Gopher player in the weekend. Crandall was given a major penalty and ejected from the game. It was one of the dirtiest and most dangerous hits I've seen in college hockey in a long time. It's exactly the the type of hit that got the Colorado Avalance so steamed at Matt Cooke and the Minnesota Wild in the NHL Playoffs last year.
The Gophers got nothing going on the power play during the remainder of the first period, but the power play would extend into the second.
END 1: MINNESOTA DULUTH 2 - Gophers 0. Bulldogs score early (Toninato) and late (Kuhlman) to put Minnesota on tilt. UMN has 3:30 of PP time.— Nate Wells (@gopherstate) November 16, 2014
The Gophers power play came to an end after Hudson Fasching was called for interference in front of the Bulldog's goal. Just after the whistle, the Gophers buried the puck in the Bulldog's goal, but of course it wouldn't count. After the play, a Bulldog defenseman took a strongly-worded lecture from the referee for crosschecking Taylor Cammarata (New York Islanders), but did not receive a penalty. The sequence perfectly encapsulated the Gophers weekend.
The second period proceeded much as the first, but the Gophers began to get pressure and move the puck around in the offensive zone.
Later in the period, AJ Michaelson received a five minute major for checking Kyle Osterberg from behind.
Veteran play by Osterberg. Michaelson going for a hit and he turns into the boards.— GPL (@GopherPuckLive) November 16, 2014
The Gophers managed to kill the penalty and escape the second period down 2-0. Somehow, the Gophers had played five periods of hockey in one weekend without scoring a goal.
The Gophers looked crisp in the opening minutes of the third period, and managed to draw a hooking penalty called on Toninato just a minute and a half into the period, but the Gophers continued to struggle on on the power play and barely mustered a threat in the two minutes.
Gopher freshman Leon Bristedt finally put a shot behind Duluth's Kasimir Kaskisuo eleven minutes into the third to bring the Gophers within one goal and break the horrific scoring drought. Bristedt picked up the puck on the blue line, stepped around a falling defender, and scored with a wrist shot that snuck in on the near-side post.
The Bulldogs held on through a late 6-5 flurry for the win and the weekend sweep. It's the first time the Gophers have been swept since two games at Wisconsin last year. The Bulldogs looked like the better team through the whole weekend and deserved the sweep.
The Gophers didn't play well, and they can kiss their #1 poll ranking goodbye (yes, it's just a pointless poll, but it's the principle of the thing).
The Gophers have an exhibition game against the US Under-18 team this coming Friday, and then return to real action with a weekend road trip with games against Boston College and Northeastern on Thanksgiving weekend. Hopefully the sort-of-off week will give them some time to get healthy and get the power play back on track.