Sunday, November 15, 2009

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back: Gophers Win Friday, Lose Saturday to Bemidji State

The Gophers played with grit, heart and determination to earn a much needed 4-1 victory Saturday night against the previously undefeated Beavers of Bemidji State. Unfortunately, they forgot that the weekend series was two games long.

The Beavers trounced the Gophers Sunday evening, scoring six goals against the hapless goaltending tandem of Alex Kangas and Kent Patterson to beat their Minnesota Gophers team 6-2, despite the fact that the Gophers held a sizable lead in the shots on goal statistic.

All the momentum and excitement the team generated during their dramatic and exciting victory in the first game of the series was drowned out by sloppy play, devastating turnovers and, quite frankly, an attitude that lacked the fire and desire to win that we've seen with great Gopher teams in the past.

Saturday's game got off to a bad start, however. A bad bounce on a breakout pass by Tony Lucia led to a 1-on-0 opportunity that Beaver forward Jordan George capitalized on, quickly making the game 1-0 Beavers in the first. However, the Gophers answered right back, getting a goal-line scrum goal from sophomore forward Nico Sacchetti. The Gophers and Beavers played each other tough throughout the second period, with Mike Hoeffel netting the eventual game winner on a 5-on-3 power play. The Gophers got some insurance late in the third period on goals by Jordan Schroeder and Mike Carman.

The 3 Gopher Stars from Saturday:

3. Nico Sacchetti

Nico was crashing into people all night and played a great combination of smart-physical hockey. He was very visible throughout the game, making quality plays nearly every time he stepped onto the ice. He also scored the first Gopher goal of the game right after Bemidji had scored their first goal, which provided the Gophers a much needed shot in the arm at a critical juncture of the game. Sacchetti also assisted on Jordan Schroeder's goal.

2. Alex Kangas

Kangas was lights out again Saturday night, making some terrific stops in the crease. Perhaps the most critical portion of the game was the Beavers' own 5-on-3 power play chance, and Kangas came up huge making several spectacular saves to stonewall the Beavers' scoring chances.

1. Jordan Schroeder

Schroeder would've been in the 3 Stars tonight even if he didn't have any points. He played that solid of a game and was the best player on the ice for either team whenever he was in the game. He was stickhandling very well and always seemed to find the open man for a great scoring chance. It was nice to see him get his first goal of the season - he's been due for that and hopefully Schroeder scoring goals is a trend that we'll see continuing.

Sunday's game started in a similar fashion as Saturday's game. Another patented David Fischer pass to the opposing team in our own slot led to the Beaver's first goal. This time, though, the Beavers continued to pile on the goals. Matt Read scored on a disputed goal with less than a minute to play in the first period. The start of the second period saw sophomore goaltender Kent Patterson take the place of Alex Kangas, despite the fact that neither of the Beavers' two first period goals were Kangas' fault.

The Gophers finally got on the board halfway through the second when Jordan Schroeder rifled a one-timer past Beaver goaltender Mathieu Dugas on the power play.

However, a series of plays soon after the Schroeder goal would doom the Gophers chances of completing the sweep. A questionable (at best) checking from behind call on the Gophers Zach Budish led to a 5 minute power play for Bemidji State. Just a handful of seconds after Tony Lucia hit the crossbar on a shorthanded breakaway Bemidji put one behind Patterson and into the net to effectively seal the game.

The momentum swing was palpable inside Mariucci Arena after that series of plays. A dumb penalty by Jordan Schroeder at the end of the second period gave the Beavers all the boost they needed, as they converted a power play goal, a Pat White turnover and a Jordan Schroeder turnover all within the first 3:04 of the third period to put the score at 6-1 and turn this game into a laugher.

Although the Gophers did have several flurries in the middle of the period, including a Jake Hansen goal, the game was all but in the bag.

The 3 Gopher Stars from Sunday night's game:

3. Joey Miller

Miller was the catalyst to some of the late game flurries. He played like he either didn't know or didn't care what the score was - he played gritty and hard. I like those kinds of players, and Miller deserves credit for playing his heart out all the time.

2. Zach Budish

I know Budish was out for half of the game, and his penalty was the turning point of the game, but you've gotta love how this kid competes game in and game out. That penalty call was a joke, he was battling hard and should have gotten two minutes at worst. If Budish was in the game, I think we would have seen a different outcome, and at the very least a more competitive Gopher team in the second half of the game.

1. Tony Lucia

Lucia continues to find ways to contribute positively to this Gopher team, whether that be on the stat sheet or just with consistent effort and solid play. Now, if only he could shoot the puck a little bit lower...

The Gophers welcome the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs to Mariucci Arena this Friday and Saturday, with game times at 7:00 both nights. I expect to see a better effort from the Gophers next weekend!

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