As exhibition games go, the Gophers men’s hockey team’s 2-2 tie with Mount Royal on Sunday night served a purpose. Passes weren’t always crisp, the game’s pace was choppy, and unified play was lacking at times, which means coach Bob Motzko has plenty of teachable moments as he prepares his team for this week’s season-opening series at Colorado College.
“There were 152 times tonight when we wanted a better play,’’ said Motzko, who has 11 freshmen among his 12 newcomers. “… You just have to say to yourself, ‘That’s going to be better in a week, that’s going to be better in a month.’ ’’
Playing in front of an announced crowd of 6,482 at 3M Arena at Mariucci, the Gophers got a goal and an assist from Blake McLaughlin and a goal from Sammy Walker to tie Mount Royal, a team that lost 5-2 at No. 3-ranked Minnesota State Mankato on Saturday.
Motzko pulled a handful of positives from the game.
• Walker’s line: A sophomore captain, Walker centered McLaughlin and freshman Bryce Brodzinski. Walker’s power-play goal 3:12 into the game gave the Gophers a 1-0 lead, and McLaughlin tied the score 2-2 3:03 into the third. “They feel good about their game right now,’’ Motzko said.
• The goalies: Junior Jack LaFontaine stopped all six shots he faced in the first period, freshman Jared Moe made seven saves on nine shots in the second, and freshman Justen Close had 10 saves in the third, plus three in the five-minute overtime. “We left Moe out to dry,’’ Motzko said. “… We turned our cute button on and all we did was turn the puck over.’’ Motzko will take all three to Colorado College but hasn’t named a starter.
• Freshmen defensemen Ryan Johnson and Jackson LaCombe: “They were game-changers back there, how they positioned the puck, how they got back,’’ Motzko said.
• Freshman forward Jonny Sorenson: “He caught our eye a bunch all night long,’’ Motzko said.