If it was a two-game, total-goal series, the Gophers would have easily beaten Vermont last weekend 10-5.
But it wasn’t. So they got a split.
They won big on Friday 6-0, taking a 2-0 lead in the first four minutes. On Sunday, the Gophers appeared on their way to another win when they scored twice early in the second period to go ahead 3-1.
This time the Catamounts rallied, scoring three goals in the last five minutes of the second period to take a 4-3 lead and they eventually won 5-4.
Gophers coach Don Lucia talked about the split on Monday during his weekly radio show on 1500ESPN.
He said the Catamounts are a better team than they were last season. In 2010-11, Vermont won eight games and finished seventh in Hockey East.
Lucia said the Gophers had an advantage Friday because they were playing at home and had played four games already. Vermont, he said, had seven freshmen playing their first college game. The Gophers had five freshmen in their lineup, and four of them were playing their fifth game.
“We took advantage of [the situation],” Lucia said. “We played very well. We moved the puck. We had some real nice goals. And we were able to get the win on Friday.
“We probably would have been better off playing on Saturday than on Sunday, just from a conditioning standpoint. We probably were in a little better shape. … When you play your first games you are a little big more fatigued. They got a little tired Friday night the back half of the game. It is just getting back into game shape.”
Lucia said he knew Sunday would be different game, but the Gophers got off to a good start. They were ahead 3-1 halfway through the second period.
“What got us into trouble were penalties,” Lucia said. “Stupid penalties is probably the best way to describe it. Retaliation-type penalties. One guy took a four-minute penalty. It got us out of our rhythm in a couple of ways.”
Seth Ambroz, a freshman right wing on the third line, took the unusual four-minute penalty. He was called for hooking and, with an official a short distance away, Ambroz cross-checked the player, too.
The 11 penalties the Gophers took, especially the seven in the second period, turned into a double whammy. Lucia said the Gophers made a couple lineup changes which hurt them. Out of the lineup were a couple of Friday's four-line penalty killers.
Freshman Travis Boyd and senior Nick Larson were on the fourth line Friday. Freshman Christian Isackson and senior Nico Sacchetti replaced them Sunday.
“We didn’t have as many options on the penalty kill as we had on Friday,” Lucia said. “And now you look at the stats after the second period. We played 10-1/2 minutes of [the first] 40 short-handed.
“We had to use some of our top-end guys too much [killing penalties]. That is a good lesson for us as coaches, how we are going to put our personnel out there and who we are going to play.
“If you are going to play on that fourth line, you have to have that trust factor, that we can use you to kill penalties as well.”
A couple freshmen, in particular, Lucia said, took some ill-advised penalties that got the Gophers into trouble.
“We had a chance to go on a power play and nullify one of theirs and we retaliate and they end up scoring on the power play,” Lucia said.
That was a clear reference to fresman defenseman Blake Thompson's penalty late in the second period.
Here is the situation.
The Gophers' Mark Alt is in the penalty box for high-sticking. ... His teammates have killed 1:07 of the penalty when Connor Brickley of Vermont checks Thompson hard into the boards and gets a boarding penalty. So it was going to be four on four for 53 seconds and the Gophers would be on the power play for 67 seconds.
But wait, Thompson cross-checks Brickley and is called for unsportsmanlike conduct and Vermont stays on the power play. ... Thirty-five seconds later, Vermont, with 18 seconds left on its power play, scores. Sebastian Stalberg get the goal to give the Catamounts a 4-3 lead. Ouch.
Another mental mistake was made on Vermont’s second goal, Lucia said. Two forwards had an opportunity to change, 30-35 seconds into the penalty kill, but they didn’t on a dumped puck.
“They had been out there 1:15 when the goal went in,” Lucia said. “We keep telling them, you make mistakes when you are tired. You make mental mistakes. … We like to have four changes on a two-minute penalty kill.”
The two forwards on the ice for Brickley's power play goal were Sacchetti and sophomore Tom Serratore.
Lucia said he was upset the Gophers lost, but glad the way they lost. “I’m glad we made some stupid decisions,” he said. “You can show them. … Here is one of the reasons why we lost. I’m not saying we would have won the game, but this a reason we didn’t.”
The Gophers had Monday off, but they will have a video session before Tuesday's practice.
Lucia said after mixing in a few players this weekend, he and his coaching staff have a better sense of who their top six defensemen and top 12 forwards are. He said he is not going to automatically keep making lineup changes. Players will have to earn their spots in the lineup or play themselves out of spots.
“It wasn’t like we were under siege,” Lucia said, referring to Vermont’s three-goal comeback late in the second period. “Give Vermont credit. They were opportunistic as much as anything. They scored four goals in eight to 10 shots in the second period. So it wasn’t like they got 20 shots and we were hemmed in.”
Vermont scored four goals in the second period on 10 shots; the Gophers has two goals on seven shots.
“They scored two power play goals and they seamed us on another one when a defenseman got beat back to the net and they scored on that," Lucia said.
.“Even their fifth goal was a missed backcheck," he said, referring to Vermont's game-winner seven minutes into the third period. "And that is something that shouldn’t happen either.”
Lucia said coaches can point out what are good penalties and what are bad penalties.
“We want our guys to be aggressive, we want our guys to stand up for each other. We want our guys to play whistle to whistle, but when the whistle blows, it’s over," Lucia siad. "We don’t need to be retaliating. We don’t need to be taking, if we have already taken a penalty, take another penalty. Go down four minutes. That’s the part that was disappointing.”
POWER PLAY BREAKDOWN
The Catamounts got seven power plays and had a man-advantage for 12 minutes, 32 seconds. They had one shot on four power plays, two on the other three for a total of 10. They were two for seven on power plays.
The Gophers had four power plays for 5:07. They had nine shots and were two for four on power plays.
Blake Thompson, three for 6 minutes, cross-checking, slashing, unsportsmanlike conduct
Seth Ambroz, three for 6 minutes, hooking, cross-checking, roughing
Seth Helgeson, one for 2 minutes, roughing
Erik Haula, one for 2 minutes, roughing
Justin Holl, one for 2 minutes, holding
Mark Alt, one for 2 minutes, high-sticking
Ben Marshall, one for 2 minutes, roughing