The Minnesota men’s Hockey team split at home with #1 Notre Dame, and the Gopher women got a much needed sweep of Minnesota State on Senior Weekend on the ice last this past weekend. The women will look to keep their positive momentum going with a series at St. Cloud State while the men will get their bye weekend.
The Gopher men got off to a good start on Friday night. Minnesota seemed to outplay the Irish for a majority of the game, but just could not seem to get the puck past Irish goalie Cale Morris. Morris had held Minnesota to just two goals in two games in South Bend earlier this season including a 1-0 shutout win in the Friday opener that looked a lot like this Friday night. Both teams had great chances, but Morris shut down the Gophers and Mat Robson shut down the Irish. Brannon McMannus rung a shot off the post near the end of the third period, but neither team could capitalize and the game headed to overtime still scoreless. It appeared the two teams might be headed for a shootout until Gopher freshman Casey Mittelstadt made a great play with the pluck entering the zone and passed to Rem Pitlick who ripped a shot toward Morris. He made the initial save, but the puck trickled behind him where Mittelstadt was waiting to slam the puck into the set, sending the Mariucci Crowd into a frenzy and giving the Gophers a 1-0 victory. Robson made 25 saves to move to 4-1 on the year with two victories against #1 teams in the nation. it was also the third straight win for the Gophers over the #1 team in the nation at home. Unfortunately both of those streaks would end Saturday night. Highlights of Friday’s win are below:
Notre Dame came out with much more of a dedicated attack, and the Gophers could not seem to keep themselves out of the penalty box on Saturday night. Those two factors resulted in a 4-1 Notre Dame victory. The Irish took a 1-0 lead to the locker room after one period on a power play goal by Jordan Gross. A Jake Evans power play goal would make it 2-0 Notre Dame in the second, until McMannus continued his hot streak and cut the Irish lead to 2-1 after two periods.
Middelstadt didn’t help the Gopher cause when he turned the puck over directly in front of the Minnesota goal early in the third period, and Edina native Dylan Malmquist easily beat Robson to make it 3-1 and pretty much seal the game. The Gophers pulled Robson with over three minutes left, but two Gopher penalties put an end to that and Malmquist would add another power play goal to make it 4-1 Irish before the final horn sounded.
Minnesota got the split we wanted against Notre Dame in the long run it may help the team in both the Big Ten and NCAA Tourmament discussions. However, in the short term thanks to some other results, Minnesota actually lost ground in both the Big Ten standings and pairwise rankings. The Gophers started the weekend in a tie for fifth place in the Big Ten and left in alone in sixth place thanks to Wisconsintaking five of six points at home from Penn State. Just two points separate third place from sixth in the Big Ten standings as Michigan is in third place with 25 points, Penn State and Wisconsin each have 24 points, and the Gophers have 23. All four teams all have six games remaining in their regular season schedules, so its anyone's guess how the final standings may shake out. Minnesota has to travel to both Wisconsin and Penn State in the next few weeks, so the Gophers will have the ability to play themselves into a home ice spot, but it won’t be easy. We will have a more in depth look at the Big Ten race later this week.
Meanwhile, despite winning once against the #1 team in the country, the Gophers dropped from #9 to #11 in the pairwise rankings after the weekend. Minnesota wasn’t helped by St Cloud State splitting with UMD and Providence getting a win and a tie against Northeastern which leapfrogged the Bulldogs and Friars over the Gophers. Minnesota still remains in fairly good position to make the NCAA Tournament if they can just go 3-3 down the stretch—which again will not be amazingly easy with a home series vs #6 in the pairwise Ohio State and road series against #15 Penn State and #19 Wisconsin. The good news is that Minnesota will not pick up a “bad loss” the rest of the way in the regular season, but can gain ground, especially with road wins.
Meanwhile over at Ridder Arena, the Gopher women took care of Minnesota State winning 4-2 on Friday and 2-0 on Saturday. Minnesota scored three second period goals on Friday night by Sydney Baldwin, Grace Zumwinkle and Emily Brown. Taylor Wente added an empty net goals to ice the win.
On Saturday, Minnesota honored their four seniors in Baldwin, Caitlin Reilly, Cara Piazza, and Sidney Peters. Peters took advantage of the day to pick up her third shutout of the season in a 2-0 win. Piazza scored the Gophers first goal and Alex Wolken would add the second.
The wins coupled with UMD’s sweep of Ohio State pushed the Gophers back into second place in the WCHA standings. They hold a one point lead over the Buckeyes, but OSU has two games in hand on the Gophers. Both teams still have a pair of games against the #1 Wisconsin Badgers left this season—The Buckeyes host the Badgers this weekend while Minnesota heads up to St. Cloud for a pair of games against the Huskies. The Gophers remain at #7 in the pairwise—directly on the NCAA Tournament at-large bubble after the weekend. It’s a situation all Gophers fans will need to watch as the remainder of the season plays out. Highlights of the Gophers weekend sweep are below: