That was a tough game to watch. I'm not going to sugarcoat this today (I'm at a car dealership getting an oil change and a tire rotation so I'm not feeling very charitable), this game was brutally hard to watch. The Minnesota Gophers were dominated at home by the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs 3-1 last night, and the game wasn't as close as the score would indicate.
Neutral Zone An Issue Again
Just like the Vermont game last weekend, the Gophers looked completely clueless about how to enter the offensive zone. In the second period, Duluth put on a transition game clinic. I don't remember a great trapping scheme out of the Bulldogs, however, I remember unforced turnovers and poor passes from the Gophers. Lots of them.
To their credit, the Bulldogs are very good at gaining possession and having all five players immediately flip the switch from "wait for passing error" to "attack." All five players on the ice would wheel in unison and either carry the puck in deep or get it behind the Gopher defenders.
The Gophers, on the other hand, rarely were able to dump the puck deep (flutter, flutter, flutter) and on the few occasions they did, they were unable to establish a forecheck.
Stats Don't Lie
Over the course of a season, shots on goal are not as good of a predictor of actual puck possession as attempted shots. In this game, I feel like Duluth's 35-24 shot advantage matches my eye test for possession.
In the second period, the Gophers only managed four shots on goal. Let it sink in. Four.
Duluth has the advantage in overall shot attempts as well, 59-45. The attempts are closer than I expected, but I'm guessing score effects had a lot do with it. The Gophers had half of their shots on goal come with a two-goal third period deficit, so I assume half of their attempts came during that period as well.
In their two power plays, the Gophers only ATTEMPTED three shots on goal. One went wide, one was blocked by a defender, and one was saved.
Shierhorn Likes to Challenge Shooters
While he played a pretty good game overall (32 saves), Eric Schierhorn's preferred style is starting to show through. He likes to come out and use his size to minimize shooting angles available to the attacking player. That's fine, and in fact I like a goalie who doesn't shrink down into the net.
Unfortunately, over-aggression (and bad defense) led to a goal again last night. One minute after Brent Gates Jr. scored the Gophers first goal of the season, the Bulldogs entered the Gopher zone with the puck up the middle of the ice. Scheirhorn was out in front of the crease to challenge the initial shot, and made the save.
Unfortunately, the rebound trickled down the left side of the net, the defender (Michael Brodzinski- correct me if I'm wrong), failed to pick up a driving Dominic Toninato or the puck, and Schierhorn was on his knees in the slot. The goal was wide-open
What to Expect Tonight
Tonight the teams square off in Duluth's Amsoil Arena, where they value advertisers. Expect this game to look much like the one last night. Duluth is good. Duluth is experienced. The Gophers are raw.
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