Bob Motzko wishes his team had an attitude problem.
Not that he would expose that fact to the public if the Gophers did, but at least he would know how to give that negativity an adjustment. Instead, he was just left "blindsided" after his team's 4-3 overtime loss Friday to St. Lawrence. Michael Ederer scored 3 minutes, 19 seconds into the extra period for the Saints.
"They are really struggling to find that chemistry of how you have to dig in, how you have to work. And the coach can't go in with the whip every day," Motzko said. "I did not think I would come in here tonight and have this kind of feeling. We were much better [this] week preparing. Good vibe. But what we saw [Friday], we've seen before. So it's nothing new."
The Gophers opened a six-game homestand with a close defeat in front of an announced 7,923 fans. The Eastern College Athletic Conference opponent doubled its victory total to 2-8 while the Gophers fell to 2-5-1. A head-scratching loss to a St. Lawrence team that averaged 1.3 goals per game before this matchup.
Motzko has previously lamented his team's "cuteness" and unwillingness to play tough. But after three previous games of steady improvement, he was sure this would be another positive step. Instead, only goaltender Mat Robson's stellar 35-save performance kept the score from being more like a 7-1 thrashing.
The Gophers gave up two power-play goals to St. Lawrence — from junior center Alex Gilmour in the first period and freshman center David Jankowski in the third — a unit that was just 3-for-27 heading into this game. And while the Gophers' 5-on-5 play was a bit stronger, with even-strength goals from junior center Rem Pitlick in the first and senior defenseman Jack Sadek in the third, the scoring opportunities came from only one line.
In addition to his goal, leading-scorer Pitlick assisted on both Sadek's and junior defenseman Tyler Nanne's third-period goals that sent the game into overtime. Senior winger Brent Gates Jr. assisted on all three goals.
"We were just moving, working hard. We weren't doing anything too cute," Gates Jr. said of what made his line successful. "They want to play man-on-man defense. The best way to combat that is move. You stand still, it's pretty easy for a guy to stay on you. So we were moving our feet, just getting to the net, getting pucks to the net. And good things happened."
Adding to the frustration was St. Lawrence's freshman goaltender Emil Zetterquist, playing in his first game. He made 37 saves. He also had the help of 15 blocked shots, something Sadek said he would like to see the Gophers improve from 10 on Friday as a way to help Robson.
Motzko said he'll wait on any decisions of drastic change until the second game of the series at 8:05 p.m. Saturday. But if the same performance persists, he could tinker with the lines again. Beyond the Pitlick line, only senior center Ryan Norman's line produced a couple of good shifts.
Or he could give his players another opportunity to all show up at the same time.
"We had some guys coming to play tonight, but we had too many that didn't." Gates Jr. said postgame on Friday. "It's got to be a team effort. … And we didn't have that tonight."