MINNEAPOLIS, Minn.—#22 Minnesota was coming off their most monumental win in team history, a March 27th triple overtime victory, despite incredible adversity, over their biggest rival: #19 Duluth. The U hoped to take momentum from their Duluth win into this past weekend, as they faced off against two of the top teams in Division II: #3 North Dakota State and #9 St. John’s. Instead, Minnesota did what young teams sometimes do, they lost focus.
The hangover from the big Duluth game was evident Friday night against a very good NDSU team. Minnesota started hot, scoring two goals within the first three minutes of the contest. Their early success seemed to put the team into some sort of overconfidence-induced snooze mode. Unable to wake up from their cruise control, they were outscored by NDSU 10 to 2 in the remainder of the game. Final score: UMN 4 – NDSU 10.
Unfortunately UMN’s lackluster play stretched into their second game of the weekend against the St. John’s Johnnies. During the first three quarters, Minnesota was once again prone to unforced turnovers and mental mistakes. With time winding down in the third quarter UMN found themselves down 4 to 9, and the coaching staff began tinkering with lineups. Fresh defensemen, Freshman Justin Crowell and Sophomore Matt Fox, were thrown into the mix and changed the entire composition of the game; they locked down the Johnnies for the remaining third and fourth quarter.
With 59 seconds left in the third quarter another underclassman, Trent Woodcock, scored a goal and finally awakened the Minnesota offense after a six-quarter slumber. In the fourth quarter UMN rode their youthful enthusiasm to within one point of the Johnnies: at 10:38 the score stood at UMN 8, SJU 9. St. John’s was forced to call a timeout in order to stop the bleeding. Minnesota’s offense kept up their pressure, generating some quality shots, but St. John’s goalie stood tall. As time wound down, Minnesota dropped the ball and it looked as if the ensuing scrum would eat up their last chance. However, hope returned to the UMN sideline as penalty flags flew, and referees indicated that there were fouls on both teams.
With just 12 seconds left, no time outs, and one player from each team in the penalty box, The U was awarded possession. Sophomore point leader Nick Abbott began with the ball on the wing, stutter stepped up field, got underneath his defenseman and pressed the cage. He never let up steam as the adjacent defender slid to him. Abbot managed to squeeze between the two defenders and, with longpoles draped over him, shot as he dove towards the middle of the field, bouncing the ball around the goalie and into the net forcing overtime.
In extra time a Minnesota mental mistake left Goaltender Matt Jorgensen out to dry as a Johnnie player caught a pass in the middle of the defense and ripped it low. UMN dropped the second game of the weekend 9 to 10 against St. John’s.
The message from Minnesota coaches was simple following the weekend games: players need to refocus and understand that you “can’t expect to win games against anybody if you play three terrible quarters.” Terrible quarters were rampant as the University of Minnesota racked up close to 55 turnovers between the two games.
Next Game: As has been customary this season, Minnesota will have a quick shot at redemption from their recent losses; they play against Division II #1 ranked University of St. Thomas on Saturday at 7 PM in the Tommies’ own O’Shaughnessy Stadium in St. Paul. Before that, though, UMN has a Friday matchup with their last UMLC Rival, Minnesota State University, Mankato, starting at 10 PM in Bielenberg Sports Complex.