When you hop aboard the roller coaster that is the Gophers men’s hockey 2017-18 season, you’re going to experience a lot of ups and downs.
On Friday came the climb, when the Gophers played a solid all-around game and beat No. 1 Notre Dame 1-0 in overtime, their second win over a No. 1-ranked team this month.
On Saturday came the fall, when the Fighting Irish scored three power-play goals, controlled play for most of the game and emerged with a 4-1 victory at 3M Arena at Mariucci.
“The more determined team won tonight,” Gophers coach Don Lucia said. “We knew there would be pushback from Notre Dame. There’s a reason why they have the record they do.”
The Gophers (16-13-1, 7-10-1-1 Big Ten) fell out of a fourth-place tie and into sixth after Wisconsin beat Penn State in a shootout in Madison. In the PairWise Rankings, the Gophers fell two spots to No. 11, still in line for an NCAA tournament at-large bid but far from secure.
Notre Dame (20-5-1, 14-2) halted a two-game losing streak by using a suffocating defense and Cale Morris’ 16 saves. In ending Minnesota’s three-game winning streak, the Irish outshot the Gophers 30-17 and held them to nine shots through two periods.
Notre Dame went 3-for-6 on the power play, making the Gophers pay dearly for their mistakes.
With 3:48 left in the first, Gophers winger Leon Bristedt ran over Morris, drawing a goaltender interference penalty. Irish defenseman Jordan Gross, a senior from Maple Grove, blasted a slapshot past Mat Robson for a 1-0 lead 29 seconds later. It was Gross’ seventh point in nine career games against Minnesota, and he later added an assist.
“We took some undisciplined penalties tonight, and against a good, quality team like that, you can’t,” Lucia said.
The second power-play goal for the Irish came in the second period, when Rem Pitlick was called for interference. Jake Evans scored in tight, making it 2-0 with 10:37 left in the period.
“We got down 2-rip, and you’re chasing,’’ Lucia said. “It’s not the team you want to chase the scoreboard against.’’
Said Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson: “Tonight was a much better effort, playing the way I thought we played in the first half [of the season]. … It was a tough loss [Friday] night. Those type of losses, it’s generally hard to come back the second night. They showed some mental toughness and maturity.”
Earlier in the second, Gophers defenseman Ryan Lindgren, while being hooked by Gross on a breakaway, lost his balance and barreled into Morris, knocking the net over. Gross was called for hooking, but Lindgren also was penalized for goalie interference, prompting howls of protest from Gophers fans.
The Gophers got some life late in the second when Brannon McManus, on a rush with Casey Mittelstadt, patiently kept the puck, then sniped a shot past Morris to cut the Irish lead to 2-1 with 3:48 left.
Notre Dame went up 3-1 6:47 into the third when Mittelstadt lost the puck in his own end and Edina’s Dylan Malmquist walked in all alone to beat Robson. With 2:20 left and the Irish on a 5-on-3 power play, Malmquist scored to make it 4-1. The Notre Dame contingent at Mariucci broke out its “Let’s go Irish!” cheer in celebration.
“They’re the No. 1 team in the country,” McManus said, “and they don’t take losing easily.”