DULUTH – After eight straight losses to the Bulldogs, the Golden Gophers will gladly take a tie on the road against the defending champs.
Goals by Sampo Ranta and Peter Krieger accounted for all of the offense in the game, and strong goaltending on both sides led to #13 Minnesota and #1 Minnesota-Duluth battling to a 1-1 tie Saturday night at AMSOIL Arena in the opener for both teams.
With Minnesota having a new coach for the first time in nearly 20 years, coming out of the first game in a new era with a stalemate in a tough environment isn’t such a bad thing, and new bench boss Bob Motzko knows it’ll get easier as time goes on. For now, though, he’s happy his team got out of the first game the way they did.
“Overall, we liked a lot of the things we saw,” Motzko said. “We saw some character and heart with our guys in their battle level. The things that we didn’t get going – I just wanna flip the calendar, because a month from now we’re gonna be better. We survived tonight – we gotta survive again tomorrow.”
In a surprising move, Motzko, who was head coach at St. Cloud State for 13 seasons before succeeding his former mentor Don Lucia, had his team on the bench when Minnesota-Duluth’s 2018 championship banner was unveiled during the pregame. When asked about it after the game, Motzko defended his decision.
“We’re from the state of Minnesota and so are they. Our guys know their guys; we needed to be out there and show respect to our in-state partner,” he said. “It would’ve been a terrible loss for us not to witness the feel that comes with that.”
Hunter Shepard had 27 saves for the Bulldogs, who struggled at times offensively throughout the game but finished strong.
“That was a pretty good game for the first game of the year,” UMD head coach Scott Sandelin said. “I liked the second half of the third period for sure.”
Minnesota drew first blood a little over midway through the first on a 3-on-2 rush as Ranta, a freshman forward who became the first player to both commit to and play for the Gophers since Motzko took over, one-timed a centering feed from Tommy Novak and beat Shepard low to the right.
In the third period, Minnesota-Duluth was finally able to break through as a Ben Brinkman interference call led to increased pressure in the Minnesota zone on the ensuing power play, which led to a Peter Krieger rebound goal.
It was all UMD offensively from there, but Robson stood strong in net late in regulation and in overtime to preserve the tie, finishing with 31 saves. That tie may have been a Minnesota victory had it not been for some third-period penalties.
“They were unnecessary penalties, and that led to momentum back the other way,” Motzko said.
On the other side, Sandelin liked how much that goal energized his team from there.
“We needed the power play goal and we got it. It gave us a little more life to create some opportunities,” he said. “Hopefully tomorrow if we get those, we can put them in.”
The Bulldogs and Gophers conclude their non-conference series with a game Sunday night at 3M Arena at Mariucci. It’ll be the first meeting in Minneapolis between the teams since November 2014. Puck drop will be at 7:07 CT.
MINN goal at 12:07: Sampo Ranta (1). Assisted by Tommy Novak (1) and Clayton Phillips (1).
UMD power-play goal at 3:38: Peter Krieger (1). Assisted by Kobe Roth (1) and Riley Tufte (1).
Power plays: MINN 0-2, UMD 1-5.
Shots on goal: MINN 28, UMD 32.