Four games into his tenure as Gophers men’s hockey coach, Bob Motzko is earning a reputation as an analogy man.
His most recent one he uttered earlier this week proved true again for the Gophers in a 5-1 loss Friday night to Minnesota State Mankato.
“We walked in thinking we were driving a Ferrari, and we needed to have a tank,” Motzko said Wednesday of his team’s 3-1 loss to North Dakota a week ago. “We couldn’t switch the vehicle.”
The No. 10 Gophers (1-2-1) apparently still can’t get out of their lease, as the fourth-ranked Mavericks (6-1) embarrassed them at 3M Arena at Mariucci with four unanswered goals in front of an announced crowd of 8,296 that started chanting “MSU” for the opponents as the clock expired.
The first words out of Motzko’s mouth in his postgame interview were that the Gophers “weren’t a very good hockey team” on Friday. MSU Mankato scored first just under six minutes into the first period on Dallas Gerads’ goal and eventually added another first-period score from Charlie Gerard, a quick second-period goal from Nick Rivera and two third-period strikes from Marc Michaelis.
Motzko conceded that the second period — when the Gophers outshot the Mavericks 13-4 — was good because the forwards took some pressure off the defensemen and his bench showed some signs of life. And he praised his power play, which scored the team’s only goal from senior winger Brent Gates Jr. in the first period and had success on faceoffs and creating real scoring chances.
But otherwise, Motzko lamented his squad’s transitioning, shots off target and pucks that went straight into Mavericks goaltender Mathias Israelsson’s glove. He also said the Gophers handed the Mavericks three of the goals, including one from failing to pick up an opponent, one from a turnover and one from a bad line change.
Or as senior center Tommy Novak called them, “boneheaded plays.”
Gates said his team didn’t display a lot of “push back,” and he was disappointed in his team’s failure to show any fight. And he said his coach’s Ferrari vs. tank comparison is an apt one.
“You can’t really be a Ferrari without being a tank,” Gates said. “You can’t just have all flash and skill. You’ve got to get the puck back. You’ve got to get pucks deep. If we try to play with all skill, odds are you turn it over, and they get momentum. And you can’t play like that.”
Motzko believes this is a fixable problem, though. He said he could tell MSU Mankato was playing its third consecutive two-game series, while the Gophers really took a step back playing just one game each of the past three weeks. But now that the Gophers are staring down a streak similar to the Mavericks’, they might find consistency easier.
“We can’t be a popcorn play. We can’t just pop up every once and a while,” Motzko said, again with the metaphors. “We have to bring much more. We have to sustain things.”
Essentially, Motzko wants his team to “put everything in this game in the garbage can” because “very little of that game resembled the team that we want to have here.” He’s thankful his team has a rematch with the Mavericks in Mankato on Saturday evening to try again.
“There’s just a lot of cuteness to our team that doesn’t belong in hockey,” Motzko said. “And that has to be eliminated.”