Gophers hockey tops No. 1 Minnesota Duluth 7-4 in home opener

October 8, 2018

All of Minnesota Duluths players jabbed away at the puck, sliding around somewhere between their skates and Gophers junior goalie Mat Robsons pads during a second-period power play Sunday. But instead of the puck slipping into the net, it somehow stuck to the end of Gophers center Rem Pitlicks stick and skated with him on a short-handed breakaway to the other end of the ice and past Duluths goalie.

Duluth sophomore defenseman Matt Anderson was just a skate behind Pitlick the entire time and smashed shoulder first into the boards after his futile blocking attempt. He quickly rose to his knees and proceeded to slash his stick against the wall repeatedly.

The frustration is understandable, considering the reigning national champions and preseason No. 1 team outshot the No. 13 Gophers 46-22 and yet still lost 7-4 on Sunday at 3M Arena at Mariucci in front of an announced crowd of 8,115.

Duluth outshot the Gophers 13-11 in the first period, but the Gophers still scored three unanswered goals in coach Bob Motzkos home debut thanks to sophomore winger Brannon McManus two scores and another from senior winger Tyler Sheehy.

But a wave of Gophers penalties in the second period let the Bulldogs climb back into contention. While Duluth had a five-minute major and game misconduct to its top-line center, Peter Krieger, in the first period, the Gophers also endured on in the second for sophomore defenseman Sam Rossini.

Four total Gophers players went to the box for various penalties throughout the period, forcing the Gophers to play not at full-strength for a large swath of the period, even including a 5-on-3 situation for nearly a minute.

Duluth freshman center Noah Cates scored Duluths first goal on the power play about halfway through the period and then came within one of the Gophers thanks to sophomore defenseman Mikey Andersons goal at 14:41.

But just 45 seconds later, freshman winger Sammy Walker scored on a four-on-four for the Gophers to regain the momentum. And then about a minute after that, Pitlick, a junior center, made up for his earlier boarding penalty with his score.

While the first period was mostly Gophers and the second period was Duluths chance to break back in, the third period was much more tit-for-tat. Gophers freshman winger Garrett Wait scored at 3:08, which ultimately sent Duluth junior goalie Hunter Shepard to the bench in favor of junior Nick Deery. But Duluth freshman winger Jackson Cates scored almost two minutes later. Gophers freshman winger Samp Ranta, who scored in Saturdays game, added his second of the season at 11:45 before Jackson Cates grabbed another power-play goal at 14:06.

Considering Saturday was the first official start of the season and each team had only about four hours of ice time each week leading up to this series, its clear both teams need some work.

Its going to be a little bit interesting, obviously havent had a ton of time this week. Its kind of tough, Sheehy said this past Tuesday. Especially with the new coaching staff, even for us older guys, its a little bit of a changeup with just kind of the way that he wants us to play rather than coming back with the same coaching staff and just having those same systems ingrained in your mind.

This weekend is going to be a little bit of a trial.

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