Gophers coach Don Lucia tried to put as positive a spin as he could on his team's 6-3 loss to North Dakota on Friday in the Final Five semifinals.
"We had a very good first period and we didn't give up anything," Lucia said, "and it continued on into the second. One of the things that hurt us, even through the second period and even into the third when we were up 3-1, is we left a lot of plays on the rink. We had plenty of chances to go up four or five.
"Right after we made it three, [UND goalie Aaron] Dell made a couple of big saves. on some rebounds and got a pad save on [Gophers center Nick] Bjugstad. Even after the second [period], I thought we certainly left some plays on the rink after two, that maybe we could have widened the lead a little bit. But I felt good, the only goal they scored [ in the first two periods] went off one of our guys.
"And then I thought we lost the line of scrimmage mentality," Lucia said. "That is something we really talked about during the week of preparation and certainly heading into the game [Friday]. How important it was to win the line of scrimmage battle and around the blue paint. And we did that early and we scored a couple of goals around their blue paint. And then all of a sudden we started to stand around for whatever reason and watch and not pick up sticks and make some of those plays that you need to play.
"Maybe our inexperience in this environment showed a little bit tonight," Lucia said.
The Gophers were playing in the Final Five for the first time in three years. They last won a game in the conference tournament in 2008.
"The guys, for whatever reason, did not continue to get up and be aggressive," Lucia said. "We got behind their defensemen and continued to press and press and press. We were playing to win."
And then UND rallied.
"Sometimes you get in that situation," Lucia said. "And all of a sudden you are playing not to lose. That does not work. You have to continue to play to win.
"It is a great lesson and I congratulate North Dakota. They continued to come like they did during the course of the game. We talked about, they have the championship belt for a reason. [The Fighting Sioux have won the Broadmoor Trophy the past two years.] They clearly got the momentum that back half of the game, especially the third period. ... We couldn't get it back going again."
Lucia said he tried to inspire his players during a a timeout with the score 3-3. "We talked to the guys about continuing to play," he said. "But they didn't play. All of a sudden you get on your heels -- we just couldn't get going again for whatever reason. And we have been such a good third period team.
"We have been very good defensively all year. What a great teaching tool we have for this upcoming week."
Assistant captains Jack Hansen and Zach Budish scored the Gophers' second and third goals. They also represented the team at the postgame news conference.
"We came out and I thought that was some of the best hockey we played in the first period, in the first half of the game," Hansen said. "We played fast, we played physical. We were the most physical team. And then we jumped out to that 3-0 lead.
"We relaxed with it. We had other chances, but we couldn't add on to that lead. Then they got that first one. I believe it went off a defenseman into the net. Then I think we were just scared of losing. We weren't playing like we were in the first half of the game. They just took over."
Hansen expects the Gophers to recover from the loss well.
"We definitely can bounce back, obviously," he said. "I loved the way we played the first half of the game. We dominated. We were just talking about shots. I think the shots were 23-8 or something like that. We were controlling the game. We just have to watch video and learn from our mistakes so we don't have this happen again."
"They battled back well, I have to give them credit," Budish said. "Like Jake said, they scored their first goal. It was off a shin pad or whatever. We had a 3-1 lead going into the third period and they dominated us in the period pretty much.
"It was a fun atmosphere," Budish said. "It was pretty much a packed house. More Gopher fans, but North Dakota fans were loud and both sides were going back and forth. There was a lot of atmosphere. It was the kind of atmosphere you like to play in as a player and we are excited for next weekend, too."
* UND's comeback stunning: "It hurt, it's tough," Hansen said, when asked his thoughts on UND tying the score. "Just the fact that you are up 3-0 and all of a sudden now it is 3-3. It definitely kills you a little bit, but now you have to keep fighting. We didn't have that in us. I don't know what it was. It is more shell-shock than anything, that you can't believe they just tied this game."
THE DON SAYS
* On Kent Patterson giving up six goals: "Let's be honest, it wasn't his greatest game. I am confident enough that he will rebound. We talked about you got to be good this time of the year. ... Once they got a couple, he started chasing the puck a little bit. It is going to happen. He has been pretty good about, if he has an off night that he comes back and usually plays pretty good. I am confident he will come back and play well next week."
* On forgetting this loss: "We are disappointed. We wanted to be here for the weekend. You want to play in the championship game [Friday] night. The way we were playing, I thought, we looked good, we looked sharp, we are moving the puck. We were playing physical and we were winning the line of scrimmage. And then it stopped."
* On bouncing back: "You have to be able to take a punch. We punched them, they came back. We got punched and all of a sudden the guys got tentative for whatever reason. And I was really surprised by that. We have been so good all year long in the third period. That more than anything else was shocking to me. ... We have done so well at closing [other teams] out, but it didn't happen tonight. We move on."