DULUTH – It’s amazing what can happen when you come out strong.
After putting just one shot on goal in the first ten minutes of Friday’s overtime loss to No. 6 Minnesota-Duluth, No. 3 Minnesota came out with ten on Saturday, setting the tone for the game in a 2-0 victory over the No. 16 Union Dutchmen in the third-place game of the Ice Breaker Tournament.
“I think that was really important tonight, to get off to a good start in the game,” said Minnesota head coach Don Lucia. “Much better effort all the way through.”
The Golden Gophers (1-1-0) got goals from Casey Mittlestadt and Rem Pitlick, and Eric Schierhorn stopped all 26 Dutchmen shots. It was the 9th career shutout for the junior, which ranks 3rd in school history (Kellen Briggs and Adam Wilcox each had 13).
“We were really ready to go. We really stuck together as a group tonight,” said Pitlick, who also assisted on Mittlestadt’s goal.
The Dutchmen remained winless on the season (0-3-0), and yet another slow start doomed them. They had just two shots on goal in the first half of the game while being stymied defensively, forcing goaltender Jake Kupsky to make save after save.
“We just didn’t put it in the back of the net,” said Union coach Rick Bennett. “In general, I thought we played hard, but we’re not in this for silver medals.”
Determined to put Friday night’s loss behind them, the Gophers, who had just 21 shots in the 4-3 setback, had two first-period power plays and forced Kupsky to make 18 saves.
“Even though it was 0-0 after the first, I thought we played really well,” Lucia said.
Minnesota threw 14 more shots on goal in the second period and finally got rewarded with the first collegiate goal for Mittlestadt at 3:43. Pitlick then doubled the Gophers’ advantage halfway through the period with a beautiful power play tally as he raced into the offensive zone along the right wing boards, circled two Union skaters and cut right to the net, beating Kupsky top-shelf with a short-range snipe.
“Steve [Johnson] made a good pass; I had some speed,” Pitlick said.
The Gophers are by no means satisfied with just a third-place finish at the Ice Breaker Tournament, but they will take what they can get out of it.
The Dutchmen, meanwhile, will likely fall out of the rankings after going 0-2 in the Ice Breaker Tournament. Bennett knows what his team has to do to get the season on track.
“We just have to be very consistent,” he said. “This was a good learning process.”
Kupsky finished with 34 saves.
MINN goal at 3:43: Casey Mittlestadt (1). Assisted by Tyler Nanne (1) and Rem Pitlick (2).
MINN power play goal at 10:09: Pitlick (1). Assisted by Steve Johnson (1) and Eric Schierhorn (1).
Power plays: UNION 0-5, MINN 1-5.
Shots on goal: UNION 26, MINN 36