While his teammates reviewed game video Saturday, Gophers goaltender Eric Schierhorn chose not to watch. He was so displeased with his performance Friday — in his first game against mega-rival North Dakota — that he didn't want to relive it in any form.
The sophomore said he felt terrible after not doing his part in a 5-5 tie. Instead of doing more, though, Schierhorn said he tried to simplify his game — and that carried him to a remarkable turnaround Saturday. The goalie stopped all 33 shots he faced in a 2-0 victory over the No. 3 Fighting Hawks, backstopping a tremendous team effort by the 13th-ranked Gophers at Mariucci Arena.
Schierhorn was perfect for the second time this season and fifth time in his career. Though he drew many of the cheers from a crowd announced at 10,310, he was quick to spread the credit. The Gophers supported him brilliantly, blocking 25 shots, sweeping away rebounds and handing North Dakota its second shutout loss in three games.
The Hawks outshot the Gophers 33-20, including a 24-10 margin over the final two periods. The Gophers held them without a goal on three power plays, and Schierhorn put the exclamation point on his performance by stopping Brock Boeser on a penalty shot with 39.1 seconds remaining.
"I just tried to focus on simplicity," Schierhorn said. "That's what made me successful. I was trying to do too much up to this point in the season, and I haven't played my best.
"I need to stop getting in my own head. I realized what I need to do, what I need to focus on to have a good game. [Saturday] was one of those games where I was just in the zone.''
His timing couldn't have been better for the Gophers (4-2-2). They extended their unbeaten streak to four games, and they have gone 4-0-2 in their past six against North Dakota (5-3-1).
The series finale was as tense and thrilling as Friday's tie, the first regular-season game in three years between the Gophers and their former WCHA rivals. Mike Szmatula put the Gophers ahead 1-0 on a power-play goal at 10 minutes, 34 seconds of the first period. Vinni Lettieri made it 2-0 with his second goal of the weekend, scoring on a rebound at 12:01 of the second period.
Gophers coach Don Lucia said his team could grow from Friday's game, which he praised as smart and efficient. His players took that to heart, building on that fine effort and producing an exceptional one in a highly anticipated rivalry game.
"I'm just really happy for our guys, the way they played this weekend," Lucia said. "It was an important weekend. We just want to continue to take steps."
The Gophers again got outstanding special-teams play, scoring once on three power-play chances and going 3-for-3 on the penalty kill. They finished the weekend with four power-play goals on 11 attempts and allowed North Dakota a single goal in eight power-play attempts.
Schierhorn said he split Saturday's game into five-minute segments and tried to be his best in each small bite. The Gophers came out flying from the opening faceoff, as they did Friday, and the Hawks matched them in a game that was hard-hitting but tightly focused.
While his teammates played with energy, precision and pluck, Schierhorn wowed them with outstanding saves in each period. When he slid to stop the Hawks' Tyson Jost on a one-timer in the first period, he said, he knew he was dialed in. Even Boeser's penalty shot could not shake him — or a Gophers team that played its most complete game this season.
"That's how good we can be, and we realize that," Schierhorn said. "When we play that hard, and when I'm able to make more saves that I need to make, we can be a really good team and compete with the best."