Ryan Lindgren didn’t like what he saw on Saturday night.
Because of a delivery snafu involving equipment returning from the World Junior Championship, the defenseman had to watch rather than play in the Gophers’ 5-2 loss at St. Cloud State.
So, on Sunday morning before that evening’s series finale against the Huskies at 3M Arena at Mariucci, Lindgren spoke up.
“That St. Cloud game, it was embarrassing to watch,’’ the sophomore said during Wednesday’s media session. “When [coach] Don [Lucia] asked me that the next morning at video, I thought I’d express how I felt.’’
His message: We’re better than this.
“I know we’ve got a great team in there with a bunch of great players, so we’ve got to expect more out of each other,’’ Lindgren said. “That game just looked like we didn’t really care. There wasn’t a lot of heart in that game. It’s something we’ve got to change, and we did Sunday, and we need to do going forward, and I think we will.’’
Lindgren’s play in the 2-0 victory over the then-No. 1-ranked Huskies on Sunday spoke volumes, too. The 6-foot, 202-pounder didn’t register a point, but he helped make sure St. Cloud State didn’t either. His solid defensive play included a team-high four of the Gophers’ 20 blocked shots.
“Ryan Lindgren was a huge injection into their lineup,’’ Huskies coach Bob Motzko said after the game. “He was a defenseman they needed to battle us down low, and I thought he was a big difference for them.’’
Lucia raved about Lindgren’s value, too, on Wednesday.
“He’s not one of the guys who gets the limelight and he’s not one of the guys who leads the charge offensively, but he is the guy we need to play 24 minutes – the heavy minutes,’’ Lucia said. “He’s not getting four minutes a night on the power play; he’s getting a lot of penalty kill minutes. He’s getting a lot of matchups against other teams’ best players.
“When you’re ahead by a goal late, there’s no doubt he’s going to eat a puck. That’s who he is. That’s why he’s a captain as a sophomore.’’
On Friday and Saturday at Mariucci, the Gophers return to Big Ten play against Michigan, a team that in October against Minnesota rallied from a 3-0 deficit for a 5-4 overtime win in the opener and from a 4-0 deficit to a 6-6 tie in the second game. The Gophers gained an extra point in the standings by winning a shootout in the second game.
“That weekend we had with them earlier was probably the craziest hockey games I’ve ever been a part of,’’ said Lindgren, a Minneapolis native who played for the U.S. National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Mich. “… They’re a good team, a really good team.’’
* The Gophers have alternated goalies Eric Schierhorn and Mat Robson in the past three series. Lucia didn’t say how he’ll use them against Michigan. Robson is coming off a 34-save shutout against St. Cloud State and was named the Big Ten’s First Star of the Week.
“We don’t know what we’re going to do yet,’’ Lucia said. “It’s the old adage of ‘Don’t make a decision until you have to.’ But right now, we feel that we have two good goalies who can play.’’
* Freshman forward Casey Mittelstadt, the team’s third-leading scorer, missed Wednesday’s practice because of illness, but Lucia didn’t sound concerned about his availability this weekend. “He’s feeling a lot better today, and he’ll practice tomorrow,’’ the coach said.
* Junior forward Tommy Novak, the Gophers’ second-leading scorer, is progressing in his recovery from an upper-body injury. “Hopefully, Tommy won’t be out too long – maybe another week or two,’’ Lucia said.