MINNEAPOLIS – Coaches change teams, but coaches never change.
In the immediate aftermath of the Minnesota Gophers’ 7-4 victory over defending NCAA champion Minnesota Duluth at 3M Arena at Mariucci on Sunday night in Minneapolis, Gophers first-year coach Bob Motzko couldn’t help but focus on a mistake made by the home team.
Motzko, who spent the past 13 seasons as the head coach at St. Cloud State, and assistant coach Garrett Raboin, who came to Minneapolis with Motzko from St. Cloud, walked out onto the visitors’ bench as the teams took the ice before the start of the game.
“’Sandy’ (Duluth coach Scott Sandelin) had to kick us out,” Motzko said.
If you ask the enthusiastic Gophers fans among an announced crowd of 8,115 (capacity is 10,000), behind the Gophers’ bench is indeed where Motzko belongs. Motzko drew the loudest ovation during pregame introductions, and when his team went out and played an up-tempo, entertaining style, those fans had to go away pleased — and maybe even a little excited about what is to come this season.
Gophers senior forward Jack Ramsey called Sunday’s win, which came on the heels of a 1-1 overtime tie between the two teams in Duluth on Saturday, as a great start to the “Bob Era.” It’s a phrase that has a chance to have some legs, and the Gophers looked like a team that has a chance to be competitive on a national level.
The Gophers, ranked No. 13 in thepreseason poll (Duluth was No. 1), opened up a 3-0 first period lead and fought off a couple of challenges from the Bulldogs to pull off a monumental win in more ways than one. The victory snapped the Gophers’ nine-game winless streak against the Bulldogs (0-8-1).
“The crowd got into it,” Motzko said when asked about the team’s start, “and we fed off of it.”
Sophomore winger Brannon McManus scored twice for the Gophers, and goaltender Mat Robson, somewhat of a surprise starter in both games, was outstanding for the second straight night. Duluth had five power plays in the game and cashed in twice. The Gophers’ frequent trips to the penalty box contributed to the Bulldogs having a 46-22 edge in shots on goal.
“We don’t win that game without [Robson] standing on his head,” Ramsey said.
Gophers senior goaltender Eric Schierhorn entered the season with 54 career wins and has been the team’s mainstay for most of his career. Asked if Robson has separated himself as the clear No. 1, Motzko said, “We’re not going to go there.”
“We didn’t decide until after [Saturday’s] game to stick with the hot hand,” Motzko said. “We said that we had good upper-class goaltending, and if this is a snapshot of what is to come, we will have solid goaltending.”
The Gophers held a 1-0 lead on McManus’ first of the night midway through the first period when Robson made back-to-back saves against Duluth freshman winger Tanner Laderoute. Robson stopped Laderoute with a kick save on a partial breakaway and then smothered the rebound.
Forty seconds later, McManus scored again when he deflected a Clayton Phillips slap shot past Shepard. The Gophers went on a five-minute power play at 13:24 of the period when Duluth’s Peter Krieger was ejected for a hit from behind. Gophers senior captain Tyler Sheehy made it 3-0 with a power-play goal at 16:34.
The Bulldogs cut the Gophers’ lead to 3-2 in the second period and appeared to have wrestled away the momentum. But just 45 seconds after the Bulldogs’ second goal, Minnesota freshman winger Sammy Walker scored on a deflection make it a 4-2 game. Duluth never really threatened again.
“We had two scoring chances in the second period and they both went in,” Motzko said.
His team definitely will hear about the penalties for the next few days, but Motzko clearly had plenty to be happy about after his first weekend leading the Gophers.
Asked about what it was like to get his first win in his first home game as Gophers coach, Motzko summed it up in one word: “Cool.”
Walking out onto the wrong bench? Not cool. But thanks for sharing, coach. The Bob Era is off to a fun start.
Minnesota got two early goals from Brannon McManus while five other individuals scored goals as the Golden Gophers cruised to a 7-4 win over the defending national champion Minnesota-Duluth, giving Minnesota a tie and win to begin the season.
The Gophers found success in every aspect of the game, scoring once on the power play, once shorthanded and five times at even strength.
The story of the game, though, may have been shots on goal, a category dominated by the visitor Bulldogs. Minnesota-Duluth outshot the Gophers, 46-22, despite the loss.
Around the nation
Arizona State 5, Alaska 0
The Sun Devils got goals from five different scores while goaltender Joey Daccord posted his second shutout of the weekend as Arizona State completed the weekend sweep of Alaska, 5-0.
This is the first time since elevating the program from club to Division I that Arizona has begun the season 2-0 and is also the team’s first-ever weekend sweep at home in the D-1 era.
Among the Sun Devil goal scorers were Johnny Walker and Brinson Pasichnuk, who each finished the weekend with two goals scored.
Miami 4, Alabama-Huntsville 0
Karch Bachman, who scored his second goal of the weekend, was one of four goal scorers as Miami shutout Alabama-Huntsville to complete the weekend sweep.
Brian Hawkinson assisted on two of the four Miami goals and netminder Ryan Larkin earned the shutout making 11 saves.
Jake Theut stopped 41 of 45 saves in defeat for the Chargers.
— The Brotherhood® (@MiamiOH_Hockey) October 7, 2018
Lake Superior State 1, Merrimack
One day after these two teams combined for nine goals in a 5-4 shootout in favor of the Lakers, it took just a Max Humitz goal early in the second period to be the difference maker in a 1-0 shutout of host Merrimack.
Merrimack held the edge in shots, outshooting Lake State, 31-24, but all-name teams goaltender Mareks Mitens stopped all 31 shots to earn the shutout. Craig Pantano stopped 23 shots in taking the loss.
— Merrimack Men’s Hockey (@MerrimackMIH) October 7, 2018
Alaska-Anchorage 4, Colorado College 3
One night after a 10-2 loss to the Tigers, Alaska-Anchorage rallied – in many ways – to earn a 4-3 victory over the Tigers to split the weekend series.
Trailing 3-2 in the third period, Anchorage got goals from Nils Rygaard and Tomi Hiekkavirta in a span of 3 minutes, 4 seconds in the third period to take the lead and earn the victory.