As Notre Dame celebrated a first round upset in front of its net, Gophers men hockey coach Don Lucia approached a few of his downtrodden seniors on the ice, their college careers, which began with a national championship game berth, now over without an NCAA tournament win since.
Lucia offered a few words and patted the players on the back while they stood stoically, their once promising season that offered dreams of a return to the Frozen Four over because of another early exit on college hockey biggest stage, a 3 2 loss Saturday to the Fighting Irish.
The Gophers failed to make the NCAA tournament a year ago and lost to Minnesota Duluth in Manchester two years ago, the start of their late season drought.
But this loss was likely the most disappointing of the past three seasons, which have yielded regular season conference championships but not NCAA tournament success.
Two years ago, the Gophers were underdogs against a talented Minnesota Duluth team that was the No. 2 seed in the region. But in Saturday loss, the Gophers were the No. 1 seed playing a Notre Dame team that finished the season outside of the top 10.
Yet the Gophers are the only of the four No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament that didn advance to the second round.
couple years ago when we were here, we lost to a higher seed, Lucia said. didn play great, but we lost to a good team. And today we lost to a good team, too. It came right down to the end. It a single game. Gophers surrendered three unanswered goals in Saturday afternoon loss at SNHU Arena, blowing a 2 0 advantage in a game that turned one sided.
For the first 30 minutes, Lucia team was easily the better side. But a second cheap wholesale jerseys period lapse erased Minnesota lead, and the Gophers struggled to generate much offense in the final stanza, while Notre Dame scored the game winner on a power play midway through the third period.
Anders Bjork, a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award along with the cheap wholesale jerseys Gophers Tyler Sheehy, scored Notre Dame equalizer and game winner, the latter when a rebound bounced to his stick and he shot past Minnesota goalie Eric Schierhorn.
had to stretch out with everything I had in order to make that first save, Schierhorn said. then I just couldn quite recover. I saw the play unfold and everything; I just couldn recover in time. Gophers squandered a lead built in the first 21 minutes thanks to a pair of back to back poor shifts that turned a 2 0 advantage into a 2 2 tie in less than 60 seconds.
First, Minnesoa took a Cheap Aaron Hernandez Jersey bad line change after being hemmed in its own zone, and as the third line lackadaisically skated to the bench, Notre Dame goalie Cal Petersen quickly sent an outlet pass ahead. Andrew Oglevie buried his shot from the left circle that cut the deficit to one goal and provided his netminder an assist.
Fifty four seconds later, a pretty tic tac toe sequence finished in front of Gophers defenseman Jake Bischoff led to the equalizer with less than five minutes remaining in the second period.
of our best players was right with the guy and doesn pick up the stick, Lucia said of the tying goal.
The Gophers had opened that period with an early power play goal that provided a 2 0 lead. Vinni Lettieri potted a fine cross ice feed from Leon Bristedt 30 seconds into the middle period for his 19th goal of the season. That followed Connor Reilly tally to open the scoring.
But after building a lead, the Gophers watched as Notre Dame netted three straight to send Minnesota home early from another NCAA tournament.
thought we had a pretty good second period, Lucia said. had some good opportunities. Just a couple mistakes. And that what comes back to bite you in these single elimination games. You don get to watch video in the morning and correct mistakes and say, go play tonight.