LAS VEGAS — There are plenty of places here for a young man to avoid entering.
A bar. A strip club. A sports book. A marijuana dispensary.
For the Gophers men's hockey team, you can include the penalty box at the Orleans Arena.
The Gophers were playing with fire all night Saturday during the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game, taking 10 penalties. Eventually, it would catch up with them and ultimately cost them the win.
Colton Poolman, a junior defenseman from East Grand Forks, Minn., scored his second goal of the game to break a 1-1 third-period tie and the fifth-ranked Gophers (1-1-1) left Las Vegas with a hard-fought 3-1 loss to No. 17 North Dakota in a contest that had the intensity of March combined with the sloppiness of October. It was the Gophers' first real game in 20 days.
"You can't take that number of penalties and expect to win," Gophers coach Bob Motzko said. " That was very uncharacteristic of us."
Added Brent Gates Jr., who scored the lone Gophers goal: "It's only our third game. I think we're still trying to learn each other and get comfortable with playing a new system."
With the Gophers’ Ben Brinkman sitting for hooking, Poolman got the puck on his stick in the high slot, took his time, lined it up and wristed it past Mat Robson at the 10:14 mark. Poolman had tied the game with under five minutes left in the second period after Gates had given the Gophers a 1-0 lead earlier in the period.
Minnesota’s chances to pull even were greatly diminished as Sam Rossini received a five-minute major for checking from behind with 3:11 to play and the Gophers down a goal. But they got a bit of a reprieve when North Dakota received its second bench minor of the game for too many men on the ice.
The Gophers had a fifth attacker but it was in vain as Joel Janatuinen won the race for a loose puck and deposited it into the empty net with 42 seconds remaining to seal the win for the Fighting Hawks (2-2-1).
"I know it's an emotional game [playing North Dakota], but we needed to do a better job of maintaining our poise," Motzko said. "We didn't handle their forecheck well. We gave up too many pucks along the wall."
They Gophers were outshot by North Dakota 33-20, including 15-5 in the second period.
"There wasn't a lot of good that came out of the game," Motzko said. "But our goaltending was excellent and we did a good job in getting the lead. But we had a lot left on that five-minute major and we didn't do a good job adding to the lead."
In Calgary, they call it the C of Red. At the Orleans Arena, where fans partied outside before the game, it was the Sea of Green, with the majority of the sellout crowd of 7,412 rooting for UND. All that was missing was the Yellow Submarine.
But it wasn’t a big deal to Motzko and his young team, which has 13 underclassmen. They knew they would be the enemy, just as if they were in Grand Forks playing at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
It took a while for the Gophers to find a rhythm as North Dakota’s heavy forecheck kept Minnesota bottled up in its own end for most of the first period. But Robson was strong in the Gophers’ net and it was scoreless after 20 minutes. Both teams had a power-play opportunity in the first period but neither generated many scoring chances.
The game swung to Minnesota early in the second period when the Gophers were given a 5-on-3 power play.
It didn’t take long for the Gophers to cash in. Gates was parked in front of Fighting Hawks goaltender Adam Scheel and he pounced on the rebound of Sampo Ranta’s shot and stuffed it past Scheel 22 seconds into the 5-on-3.
However, the Gophers were unable to capitalize on the rest of the major. North Dakota did a great job of bottling up the passing lanes and Scheel stayed strong in the Fighting Hawks’ net.
The kill had given North Dakota momentum and when Blake McLaughlin of the Gophers was called for interference just past the midway point of the second period, UND had a big opportunity to tie the game.
But it was the Gophers’ turn to show off their penalty kill. Rhett Gardner had two close-in opportunities, but Robson stopped him.
However, he was unable to stop Poolman’s screened shot from the point at 14:11 to tie it 1-1.
North Dakota thought it had taken a 2-1 lead 4:11 into the third period. But Gavin Hain’s goal was wiped out because the play had been being whistled dead.
"I think we let our emotions get away from us at times and that's something we had talked about not doing," Gates said. "But every game is a learning experience, and I'm sure we'll learn from this."