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The Minnesota Golden Gophers opened the season with a sweep over the Mercyhurst Lakers. The Gophers outshot the Lakers 88 to 44 and out scored them 12-7. As we look ahead to what’s next for the Gophers, take a look at my three takeaways from the weekend series against the Mercyhurst Lakers.
Gophers Multiple Defensive Mistakes
In game one vs the Lakers, head coach Bob Motzko continued to see turnovers by the Gopher defense time and time again. Unfortunately for Motzko and the Gophers, the sloppy defense continued throughout the weekend.
The men in maroon and gold took a 2-0 lead into the second period of game 1 against the Mercyhurst Lakers, ultimately the defense collapsed in the second resulting in costly turnovers and penalties, that lead to Mercyhurst tying it with two quick goals.
More of the same in game two for the Gophers as Mercyhurst scored just a minute into the game on the power play. The power-play goal was a result of a Jackson LaCombe kneeing penalty after he turned the puck over in the attacking zone. The Lakers took a 1-0 lead just 50 seconds into the game.
After game two, coach Bob Motzko spoke to the media regarding his team’s defense, “We watched our d-core for two years grow into an outstanding d-core. They were off this weekend they’re not going to stay off”.
“You got to get the duct tape off a few areas and that’s us. We got to play within our structure and play inside our structure. If you don’t do that you’re in trouble”. The Gophers defense was a big point of concern throughout the whole weekend. Something that will be stressed in practice for the weekend series ahead against the St. Cloud Huskies.
Gophers Power Play Was Strong
The power play was strong throughout the whole weekend. The man advantage was certainly in tack as the Gophers scored four power-play goals in the two games. Going 4 for 7 on the weekend.
All four power-play goals were big ones for the Gophers, especially Junior forward Bryce Brodzinski’s game-tying goal in the 3rd period of game two. “The power play looked good. We scored a couple, had good looks, and good chances. That’s a positive for us”.
The Gopher power play was what set them apart from Mercyhurst. The Lakers were the much better team in game one and you could argue, in game two as well. The Lakers gave the Gophers a lot of chances on the power play but played a much better game even-strength-wise than the Gophers. It seemed like all the Lakers’ shots were high danger chances in both games. If it wasn’t for former goaltender of the year Jack LaFontaine, we could’ve seen a much different result.
“A very well-coached team,” Bob Motzko tells the media about how Mercyhurst played. “We needed to get punched in the mouth and we did”.
The Mix Of Rookies And Veterans
Besides the defensive struggles, the Gophers were able to get solid play from all the forwards. Specifically the rookies and veterans. Which as a coach is exactly what you want to see.
Chaz Lucius the native of Grant Minnesota, picked up two helpers over the weekend both great plays on the power play. Head coach Bob Motzko praises the youngster to the media after game one, “he does an outstanding job in being involved in the play and keeping plays alive”. Lucius, one of three freshman forwards also plays an overall and complete game. “Lucius is responsible defensively and wants to do the right things. I see great things coming for him”.
In terms of Maple Leaf’s prospect Matthew Knies, he caught the eye of many. Matthew was one of the Gophers’ best forwards through the first two games, holding an xGF value of 1.26(1st on the team) and an xGF/60 of 3.96(2nd on the team).
The native of Phoenix Arizona, shined bright this weekend scoring two huge goals for the Gophers. “The good ones show up on day one” which is exactly what Matthew did. “Big kid with a lot of talent. He plays hard, plays the game the right way”
The Gophers’ top line is what produced through the weekend and kicked off a great start for the veterans. Senior forwards Blake McLaughlin and Sammy Walker and Junior Bryce Brodzinski make up the dynamic top line. Head coach Bob Motzko’s top line registered a combined 5 goals, 7 assists, and 12 points in two games against the Mercyhurst Lakers.
Coach Motzko spoke to the media regarding his top line, “to get those guys on track this early in the season is huge”.
Especially for senior forward Blake McLaughlin, who took him what it seemed like half the season last year to record his first goal, only took him just one game to get on the scoresheet. “Once you get that first one, you relax and move on. It’s great for McLaughlin”. The Grand Rapids Minnesota native carries a goal and four assists through the first two games.
Not to mention Junior captain Ben Meyers, who plays with Freshman forwards Matthew Knies and Chaz Lucius, started the year with a goal and three assists for four points in two games. Meyers earned the term “unselfish player” from head coach Bob Motzko regarding his three-assist game in game one.
Overall, it was a great weekend for the Gophers and a great way to start their 101st season. There are some things the Gophers need to improve on this season if they want to achieve the ultimate goal, winning the national championship.
That being said, we should see a much better defensive showing vs St. Cloud next weekend. If that is not the case, the Gophers will be in for a rude awakening.
Bryce Brodzinski spoke to the media on what’s next with St. Cloud, “Mercyhurst was a good team, we didn’t expect that. They showed us right away and played us hard. St. Cloud is going to be just as hard, they have a little grit to them that we have to hang out with”
It’s early in the season and things like this happen, but after a hard week coming up of practicing, there is not a doubt in my mind we will see a much better showing from this Gophers’ team next weekend against the St. Cloud Huskies.