Since the weekend of October 8, where the University of Minnesota Golden Gopher Men’s Hockey started their 101st season 2-0 against Mercyhurst University, it has been up and down for the men in maroon. The Gophers’ schedule following this sweep against the Lakers included a home-home series with the St. Cloud State University Huskies and a home-home series against the University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs.
Coming off two home wins, the Gophers looked to add a third against the number-two nationally ranked Huskies on Friday night, October 15. St. Cloud State found the back of the net first with an unassisted goal by Jami Krannila at 16:10 in the first period. This was the lone goal in this game through the second, and into the third period. Chaz Lucius notched his first career collegiate goal from Ben Meyers which briefly rallied the Golden Gophers, but not enough as the Huskies tallied their game winning goal at 8:57 in the third period, scored by Mason Salquist with assists from Joe Molenaar and Jack Peart. Gopher star goaltender Jack LaFontaine made 16 saves in the Minnesota home loss. After the game, Head Coach Bob Motzko stated, “We grew up tonight. It was a tough hockey game, but I liked what we did. We saw a lot of good things tonight, but it was a tough lesson.” The gophers then headed north to St. Cloud to take on the Huskies on their home ice.
With the Gophers now sitting at 2-1 on the season, and heading into enemy territory on Saturday, October 16, it was known to be a tough challenge. St. Cloud State started out game two of the series coming out to an early lead with a goal by Sam Hentges. In the second period, the Golden Gophers notched a pair of goals to take an early lead with tallies by Bryce Brodzinski, as well freshman forward Aaron Huglen scoring his first career collegiate goal. The Huskies then found the equalizer and the go ahead in the third period, but Sammy Walker had other ideas. Walker found the back of the net sending the game into overtime, and then once again 36 seconds into overtime with an assist from Blake McLaughlin to propel the Minnesota Golden Gophers past the St. Cloud State Huskies, taking a win and a weekend split in this top-five matchup series. Goaltender Jack LaFontaine made a season high 29 saves in this road win for the Gophers.
On Friday October 22, the Gophers were back at home, taking on the University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs. The Gophers fell to an early deficit, giving up two goals early, before defenseman Mike Koster found the back of the net for his first of the year, leaving the score 2-1 Bulldogs at the end of the first period. Duluth started the second period the same way they did the first, with two unanswered goals before freshman forward Matthew Knies added his third of the year, making it a 4-2 game, with Duluth in the lead. In the third period the Bulldogs added their fifth goal of the night on the powerplay. A late effort by the Golden Gophers with a goal from Grant Cruikshank wouldn’t be enough as the UMD Bulldogs went on to take game one of this home-home weekend series with a score of 5 goals to Minnesota’s 3. Jack LaFontaine had 18 saves on the night. Postgame, Head Coach Bob Motzko stated, “Give all the credit to Duluth. Our battle was at a D- tonight, and theirs was an A. We had spurts, but you can’t play like that.” The Gophers would then hit the road and head to Duluth for game two of the series.
In game two of their series against the University of Minnesota Duluth, the Gophers fell short with a 2-1 loss at AMSOIL Arena. The Gophers tally came from Mason Nevers, with Duluth goals coming from Tanner Ladourete and Blake Biondi. Jack LaFontaine made 24 saves on 26 shots faced through the night.
The next games slotted for the Golden Gophers are at home taking on Big Ten opponent Notre Dame, and then travelling to Madison to take on their border rival Wisconsin Badgers.