A two-goal, first-period lead evaporated. A one-goal, second-period edge didn’t last either. And in the end, the Gophers men’s hockey team suffered a 5-3 loss to Notre Dame on Saturday at 3M Arena at Mariucci.
There were several reasons for Minnesota’s collapse in the finale of a Big Ten series against the fifth-ranked Fighting Irish, but none stood out more than the Gophers’ performance in the faceoff circle. Notre Dame won 41 of the game’s 59 draws, including a 30-11 mark in the final two periods. That work in the circle enabled the Irish to rally from 2-0 and 3-2 deficits in front of an announced crowd of 8,008.
“We got destroyed in the faceoffs — destroyed,’’ Gophers coach Bob Motzko said. “You start the entire night on defense, and that wears you down.’’
Nick Leivermann, a sophomore defenseman from Eden Prairie, scored two goals and Charlie Raith got the winner 1:25 into the third period for Notre Dame (5-0-1, 1-0-1-0 Big Ten). Minnesota (3-4-1, 0-1-1-1) scored in the three-on-three overtime Friday after a 2-2 tie to earn an extra point in the Big Ten standings but couldn’t follow up that effort.
Riding that faceoff dominance, the Irish outshot the Gophers 17-2 in the third period. “That was on us,’’ Motzko said. “… We were chasing the puck the entire night.’’
The Gophers led 2-0 in the first period on goals by Brannon McManus and Jack Perbix before Leivermann and Spencer Stastney scored in the second.
Minnesota responded for a 3-2 lead on a pretty goal by Garrett Wait, who patiently waited for Irish goalie Cale Morris to commit, then roofed a backhander over him. The Gophers, however, couldn’t get out of the period without surrendering the lead as Leivermann scored again at 17:53.
“There’s a couple goals you want back,’’ said Motzko, who started freshman goalie Jared Moe for the second consecutive night. Moe made 34 saves.