MINNEAPOLIS -- With Friday night traffic in the big city, it is not uncommon for some Minnesota Gophers fans to show up to their rink fashionably late. When their team seemingly shows up late, it's a bigger problem.
On Friday, Oct. 22, the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs showed up on time, while a slow start by the home team doomed the Gophers. The visitors led by two goals early and by three in the third period, settling for a 5-3 win in the renewal of their historic in-state rivalry.
The first goal in a U of M jersey by transfer forward Grant Cruikshank was perhaps the most notable highlight as the Gophers fell to 3-2-0 on the season. Gophers goalie Jack LaFontaine had 18 saves in the loss, of which their coach had a blunt assessment.
“That was not a good game by the Gophers tonight. Give all the credit to Duluth,” Bob Motzko said, giving his team a barely passing grade. “Our battle level was at a D minus tonight and theirs was at an A. We chased the game, we had spurts, but we can’t come like that.”
Playing at 3M Arena at Mariucci for the first time in two years, the Bulldogs looked comfortable right from the opening faceoff. They struck first less than two minutes into the game, and took a 2-0 lead with a 10-0 advantage in shots on goal before the period was half finished.
The Gophers answered on the game’s first power play late in the period, with defenseman Mike Koster threading a shot from the blue line through traffic and past Bulldogs goalie Ryan Fanti to cut the lead in half. But the Bulldogs scored the next two goals, including one ugly defensive breakdown, to trail 4-1 midway through the game.
Minnesota Gophers coach Bob Motzko, forward Grant Cruikshank and forward Matthew Knies spoke to the media following a 5-3 loss to Minnesota Duluth on Friday, Oct. 22, 2021.
The third Bulldogs goal was a defensive breakdown where Owen Gallatin was not covered by a Gopher with much of the offensive zone to himself.
“The play for their third goal was atrocious on our part. Now it’s 3-1 and you’re chasing the game,” Motzko said. “I know we made it 4-2 and got a little life, but they’re a world-class defending team. They were defending and we were not on.”
Motzko said Koster was cross-checked in the back and into the boards later in the game and did not play much in the final two periods. His status for Saturday’s rematch in Duluth is unknown.
“We know they're a good team, they're going to get their opportunities, but I thought we did a good job limiting their opportunities,” Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin said. “I thought we had good sticks. The power plays are a different story. You still got to find a way to kill it, but our guys didn't get down. We regrouped, got the next couple goals and that's the most important thing.”
Trailing 5-2 in the third and killing a penalty, Cruikshank got behind the Bulldogs defense after a pass from Blake McLaughlin and slipped the puck between Fanti’s knees with a backhand shot. Cruikshank, who transferred to Minnesota from Colorado College in the off season, took little solace in the goal.
“I think it was a little bit of a wake-up call for us. We’ll look at the video,” he said. “We just didn’t work tonight. We need to get on the bus, re-group, take a look at the video and come to work tomorrow.”
Fanti finished with 18 saves for the Bulldogs, including 10 in the final period when the Gophers were pressing but could not get closer.
The teams play again at 7 p.m. Saturday at Amsoil Arena in Duluth.
UMD 5, Minnesota 3
First period — 1. UMD, Blake Biondi 2 (Dominic James), 1:54. 2. UMD, Quinn Olson 2 (Matt Anderson, Biondi), 7:57. 3. MIN, Mike Koster 1 (Bryce Brodzinski, Blake McLaughlin), 18:53, (pp). Penalties — Connor Kelly, UMD (hooking), 17:16.
Second period — 4. UMD, Owen Gallatin 1 (Noah Cates, Casey Gilling), 2:49. 5. UMD, Wyatt Kaiser 1 (Kobe Roth), 9:32. 6. MIN, Matthew Knies 3 (Brock Faber, Mason Nevers), 17:54. Penalties — Ben Meyers, MIN (cross checking), 1:51; Louie Roehl (cross checking), 1:51.
Third period — 7. UMD, Casey Gilling 1 (Cates, Kobe Bender), 7:33, (pp). 8. MIN, Grant Cruikshank 1 (Brodzinski, McLaughlin), 8:17, (sh). Penalties — Kaiser, UMD (holding), 5:24; Sammy Walker, MIN (slashing), 7:10; Meyers, MIN (holding), 7:27.
Shots on goal — MIN 6-4-11—21; UMD 9-8-6—23. Goalies — Jack LaFontaine, MIN (23 shots-18 saves); Ryan Fanti, UMD (21-18). Power plays — MIN 1-of-2, UMD 1-of-2. Referees — Kenny Anderson, Colin Kronforst. Linesmen — Nicholas Bradshaw, Samuel Shikowsky. Att. — 9,016.