Justin Kloos couldn’t offer any explanations Saturday, but the Gophers center had no shortage of anger. His team had been looking forward to the North Star College Cup for weeks, he said, making it all the more upsetting that it gave such a flat effort in a 4-2 loss to Bemidji State.
Kloos’ line accounted for both of the Gophers’ goals, which gave him no comfort as they lost to the Beavers for only the second time in the 21-game history of the series.
Kloos assisted Connor Reilly on the opening goal, then scored to put the No. 20 Gophers ahead 2-1 early in the third period at Xcel Energy Center.
But Bemidji State’s persistence extended the Gophers’ woes against their Minnesota college rivals, earning the Beavers (11-10-5, 7-9-4 WCHA) a spot in Sunday’s championship game against St. Cloud State.
The No. 3 Huskies beat No. 19 Minnesota State Mankato 5-4 in Saturday’s first game. The Gophers (13-11, 8-2 Big Ten) will play the Mavericks in Sunday’s consolation game.
“There’s no excuse,” Kloos said. “I’m embarrassed for myself as well as my team. We played pretty poorly all night. We didn’t earn it at all, and we got what we deserved.
“We’ve been playing pretty good hockey for the last month. Then to come out and play like this, it’s just really disappointing.”
The victory was the Beavers’ first against the Gophers since their first on Nov. 15, 2009. It ended the Gophers’ five-game winning streak and provided a strong reminder, coach Don Lucia said, that they cannot win unless every player is on board with his best effort.
Reilly gave the Gophers a good start, scoring on the rebound of Tyler Sheehy’s shot at 3 minutes, 33 seconds of the first period. In the second and third periods, though, the Gophers committed frequent turnovers against Bemidji State’s tight-checking defense and were outhustled to most loose pucks.
The Beavers didn’t surprise the Gophers with anything they did, Lucia said, but their determination — and the Gophers’ inability to get behind their defensemen — turned the game in their favor.
Even when Bemidji State fell behind, the players stuck to their plan and maintained their energy and drive.
John Parker scored on a rebound at 7:30 of the second period to tie it 1-1, and after Kloos poked in a loose puck to give the Gophers a 2-1 lead at 7:52 of the third, the Beavers responded with a goal from Cory Ward at 11:00 and the power-play winner by Markus Gerbrandt with 3:54 left to play.
“Our guys have confidence. They don’t waver,” Beavers coach Tom Serratore said. “You’ve got to stick with it and maintain your work ethic. They weren’t rattled at all, and they benefited from that.”
Last week, the Gophers spoke at length about their desire to end a much-discussed 1-10 streak against in-state opponents. With another shot Sunday, Lucia said they can’t waste time stewing.
“We’ve said it all year,” he said. “We have a fine line for us to win.
“We have to be on top of our game to give ourselves a chance, and it won’t get any easier [Sunday].”