Throughout the week leading up to the North Star College Cup, the Gophers had to field scores of questions about their growing stretch of woe against in-state rivals. Their inability to find any answers will keep that burden hanging over their heads, perhaps until next season.
Sunday’s 3-2 loss to Minnesota State Mankato left the Gophers 0-2 for the weekend and dropped them to 1-7 this season against other Minnesota teams. The game began with a costly mistake, when defenseman Jack Glover accidentally knocked the puck into his own net at 4 minutes, 4 seconds of the first period. It ended with frustration after the Mavericks’ Teddy Blueger scored on a power play, extending the Gophers’ misery as they lost for the 12th time in 13 games to a rival from within the state.
Their defeat in the North Star Cup consolation game at Xcel Energy Center came on the heels of Saturday’s 4-2 loss to Bemidji State. The No. 20 Gophers (13-12-0, 8-2-0 Big Ten) showed more energy against 19th-ranked MSU, but that couldn’t end a tournament losing streak that has grown to four games.
“It’s embarrassing,’’ said Gophers forward Justin Kloos, who had a goal and an assist Sunday. “I couldn’t feel more disappointed after this weekend, or more frustrated.
“We’re just collectively not getting the job done. There are no excuses. This stings a lot.’’
The Gophers finished the weekend with only two even-strength goals, both scored by Kloos’ line, and he was their most productive player with two goals and two assists. Coach Don Lucia said the Gophers have proved this season that they must score three or more to win, and their lack of firepower was their most glaring weakness.
Blueger was credited with the first goal for the Mavericks (14-9-5, 12-3-5 WCHA), which came at the end of a long shift in which the Gophers were pinned in their own end. Glover was behind goalie Eric Schierhorn and tried to clear a puck that was sliding across the crease, but he deflected it into the net.
Kloos tied the score late in the first period with a power-play goal. After C.J. Franklin restored the Mavericks’ lead by scoring on a five-on-three advantage, the Gophers got a two-man advantage early in the third period and pulled even on Connor Reilly’s goal. But a tripping penalty on Kloos gave MSU another power play — and Blueger slipped through the Gophers’ penalty kill to net the winner on a wrist shot from the slot.
“We just didn’t play hard enough, and that’s kind of what it came down to,” said Gophers forward Hudson Fasching, who leads the Gophers in scoring but finished the weekend without a point. “It’s getting to a point where it’s getting extremely frustrating [to lose to in-state teams].”
Fasching said the Gophers felt good entering the weekend after winning five in a row. But a poor practice Thursday foreshadowed a lack of focus, he said, something the team’s leaders must quickly correct.
“It’s disappointing, no question,” Lucia said. “Last year, we lost a couple of games [at the North Star Cup], and we were able to put it behind us and have a good run at the end of the year. Now we have to do the same.”