South Bend, Ind. – The focus will likely be on the big picture from the Gophers men’s hockey team’s 4-1 vitory over Notre Dame on Saturday at Compton Family Ice Arena. Coach Don Lucia, however, will relish the little picture.
One night after making a number of critical errors in a 4-3 loss to the Irish, the Gophers (3-4) played their most complete game of the young season, backchecking, blocking shots, and battling for pucks for the full 60 minutes.
“I was pleased with our effort. That’s the way we have to play to give ourselves a chance to win,” Lucia said. “We’re not an overly skilled team this year.”
The Gophers’ attention to detail paid off in the third period when they broke open a 1-1 tie with three goals. Defenseman Michael Brodzinski scored the first 6 minutes, 8 seconds into the final period, pinching in from the far point to rifle a feed from forward Taylor Cammarata past Notre Dame goaltender Cal Petersen. Captain Justin Kloos scored his first goal of the season with 8:12 left in regulation, winding around the Irish net for a wraparound after Petersen and Notre Dame defenseman Jordan Gross, a Maple Grove native, got tangled up in the crease.
“It’s been a while,” said Kloos, whose last goal came in the Gophers’ win against Michigan in last season’s Big Ten tournament title game. “Nothing came easy at the start of the year as far as pucks going into the net, so be able to get that one at a key moment was a relief.”
Kloos’ linemate Connor Reilly scored the Gophers’ final goal — his first of the season — with an empty-netter right before time expired.
“Those are guys that needed to score,” Lucia said. “Kloos, I’m sure he was gripping his stick. You’re the captain, you want to get off to a good start and you’re seven games in before you get your first one.”
The Gophers took a 1-0 lead 2:28 into the second period. Forward Tyler Sheehy launched a harmless-looking shot that Petersen juggled with his glove hand and ultimately dropped near his feet. Forward Leon Bristedt was there to tap the puck into the net for his fourth goal of the season a split second before the Irish goalie dove to his right in an attempt to smother it.
The Irish (4-2-2) tied the score with 2:20 left in the second period thanks to a fortuitous bounce off the skate of Gophers defenseman Jack Sadek, who blocked the shot of Notre Dame defenseman Justin Wade only to see it ricochet right to the stick of forward Thomas DiPauli in the high slot. His wrist shot eluded Gophers goalie Eric Schierhorn, who made 28 saves on the night, for his fourth goal of the season.
“It’s a building block,” said Lucia, whose team plays a home-and-home series with Minnesota State Mankato next weekend.
“They see the reward when they play like this. To come on the road against a good quality opponent and get a split, that’s a good weekend for us. And now we’ve got to go back to work.”