Tuesday afternoon at Ridder Arena, Bob Motzko put his Gophers men’s hockey team through a fast-paced practice that included two points of emphasis: conditioning and faceoffs.
Both of those areas were weaknesses in the Gophers’ 5-3 loss to Notre Dame on Saturday at 3M Arena at Mariucci. The Fighting Irish won 41 of the game’s 59 faceoffs (65.9 percent) and wore down Minnesota, especially in the third period when they outshot the Gophers 17-2.
On faceoffs, Motzko said he’s had his team work on draws the past two days, hoping to remedy a weakness that was glaring all weekend against Notre Dame and its veteran centers.
“It’s everything,’’ Motzko said. “It’s breaking it down on film. Some of our guys were trying the same thing, and it’s giving them new things to try. It was all hands on deck.’’
The Gophers hadn’t been victimized on faceoffs earlier this season as badly as they were against the Fighting Irish, but the series was an eye-opener. Minnesota tied Notre Dame 2-2 on Friday and grabbed the extra point in the Big Ten standings by winning the three-on-three overtime. Saturday, however, the Gophers’ flaws on draws were exposed.
“We were going OK at it, but then we met our match,’’ Motzko said. “It’s a good lesson for us.’’
Motzko has moved 6-2, 205-pound Scott Reedy up to a line with Sammy Walker and Blake McLaughlin to add some size and strength. Freshman Ben Meyers will join a line with Sampo Ranta and Brannon McManus.
As for conditioning, Motzko saw it as one are that he could quickly address.
“We are a team right now that needs to self-evaluate,’’ he said. “A lot of things we do, we need to do just a little better, a little stronger. That includes conditioning. Why did we run out of gas in the third period? We have to ask that. I don’t think we were physically tired, but is it a little mental thing? Is there stuff we can do to physically challenge that?’’
On Tuesday, that meant plenty of line rush drills, followed by a series of half, three-quarter and full “Herbies,’’ the skating test made famous by U.S. 1980 Olympic coach Herb Brooks in the movie “Miracle.’’
McManus, a junior forward, appreciated the conditioning work.
“It needs to get better,’’ he said. “… College hockey is tough, especially the second game [of a series]. We started hot on Saturday, and mistakes happened because of not being in condition or being tired. And sometimes the penalties happened, too. … That’s one issue where we’ve got to get better.’’
Motzko stressed areas to improve but didn’t want to paint the situation as all bad against Notre Dame.
“The things that we’re doing can be corrected, but we’re doing a lot of things right, too,’’ he said. “We were one period away from having an outstanding weekend.’’
The Gophers (3-4-1, 0-1-1-1 Big Ten) will try for such a weekend on Friday and Saturday afternoons in a conference series at Michigan (3-4-1, 0-2). Motzko sees a mirror image, at least in outcomes so far. Like the Gophers did Saturday against Notre Dame, the Wolverines blew a two-goal lead at Ohio State on Friday and lost 3-2. On Saturday. The Wolverines fell 2-1.