Measured and disappointed but not at least publicly angry, Don Lucia said it simply: “I always judge our game by continuity coming up the rink and making the plays, and it was kind of like one guy slapping it and the next guy trying to get it and slapping it to the next guy.
“There was no cohesiveness to our game tonight.”
None at all, especially in the second and third periods when the Gophers couldn’t get anything accomplished and plainly looked lethargic as Nebraska-Omaha took Game 1 of the two-game set, 3-2, here at Mariucci.
The Mavericks extended their win streak to seven games while the Gophers’ six-game unbeaten streak was extinguished. They rematch Saturday night at 7.
Zach Budish’s turnover led to Josh Archibald’s winner early in the third as the Gophers’ nine-game home unbeaten streak dating to last March ended.
This was the biggest test of the Gophers’ season, and they certainly weren’t up to snuff as UNO’s gigantic defensemen kept the Gophers to the outside and away from John Faulkner’s kitchen.
“We were pretty sloppy,” Budish said. “We were missing our passes. We didn’t get pucks deep behind their defensemen. We had a lot of turnovers.”
The Mavericks scored first 4:17 into the game when Dominic Zombo got a step on Nate Schmidt, drove to the net and buried Archibald’s seeing-eye pass. It was Zombo’s fifth goal after two all of last year and extended his point streak to six games.
But the Gophers would respond just 83 seconds later.
First, Erik Haula spun along the half wall, bounced off a check and got the puck to Sam Warning, who made a beautiful one-touch pass to Budish alone in the slot.
Budish tied the score with his fourth goal.
Later in the period, Christian Isackson, standing between the circles, took Nick Bjugstad’s pass and surprised Faulkner with a quick shot and his first goal since the Oct. 12 opener. The tally snapped a 12-game drought for sophomore from St. Thomas Academy.
The Gophers looked sleepy in a poorly-played second period. They went the first 7:02 without a shot, although on that sequence, Faulkner made a brilliant save to rob Isackson on Mark Alt’s rebound.
The Mavericks tied the game at 2-2 with one second left on a power play. Ryan Walters, who also played at St. Thomas Academy and once upon a time uncommitted from the Gophers, set up Jaycob Megna, who stepped up from the point, in the left circle for a blast.
Then it was Walters who fed Archibald with the winner.
Just not a good effort from the Gophers, and it was troubling. Judging by those on Twitter, they’re starting to have a lot of doubters for a 9-3-2 team.
We’ll see if their play Friday sparks a better effort Saturday. If not, that will be a bigtime signal that something is off with this team right now.
Lastly, here is a feature
I wrote in Saturday's paper on the women's team, which has won an NCAA record 24 in a row. They host Wisconsin Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. Saturday's game costs just 1 measly dollar. Go see 'em