As splits go, the Gophers men’s hockey team’s season-opening series at Colorado College offered a mixed bag for coach Bob Motzko: some good, some bad and plenty to learn.
“I liked a lot of things about our hockey team over the weekend, and the things that caused us problems are correctable,’’ said Motzko, whose team opened with a 3-2 loss on Friday before winning 4-3 on Saturday. “I’m excited for two more games, to keep moving. That’s where we’re at right now.’’
The Gophers return to 3M Arena at Mariucci on Friday and Saturday for their season-opening series against Niagara. Motzko addressed a variety of questions during his weekly media session on Tuesday. Some highlights:
The positives: “I liked our transition game. I liked our defensive corps,’’ he said. “For playing three freshmen, we took a step in our transition.’’ Motzko pointed to the steady play of puck-movers Ryan Johnson and Jackson LaCombe, plus the offensive contributions from Matt Staudacher, who had an assist Friday and a goal Saturday.
The negatives: “Penalties cost us dearly on the weekend. They put Colorado back in the game and got them the win on Friday because they scored two power-play goals,’’ said Motzko, whose team took five penalties for 10 minutes on Friday and five for 21 minutes on Saturday. “The next night, we took penalties again and dodged a bullet – having to kill that five-minute penalty [against Sammy Walker in the third period]. It may have been a little bit of a momentum-turner for us because we got the game-winner right after.’’
Lost opportunity on Friday: The Gophers led 1-0 entering the third period and 2-1 11:03 into the period, but Colorado College quickly took control. “We need to score [another] goal on Friday night. It just never came, and we left the game in the balance at the end.’’
On his team’s ability to learn: “They kept finding [Chris] Wilkie on the back door,’’ Motzko said of the Tigers’ offensive threat. “After three goals, it took us five periods, but in the third period, we got the same, exactly scenario, and we had two freshmen shut the door down. It took five periods to get there, but that’s the learning curve.’’
On his goaltending: “It was a B-minus for a first weekend. We definitely want to see it get stronger,’’ Motzko said. “Jack [LaFontaine] looked real solid on Friday. We needed to put more runs on the board. … [Jared] Moe got in front of those pucks late in the game to seal the win for us [Saturday].’’
On Niagara: “They went from 11 wins 17 wins last year,’’ he said. “Niagara in our region may not be a big name, but Atlantic Hockey has knocked off a lot of big teams over the last handful of years.’’