Gopher hockey looks for response at Notre Dame after losing Big Ten lead

The Gophers men's hockey team heads to Notre Dame this weekend after getting swept by Wisconsin and losing the Big Ten lead.

The University of Minnesota men’s hockey team needs to get back to a business-like approach, and nobody knows it more than Bob Motzko.

The Gophers’ head coach was asked about how the team approached film study on Monday, after getting swept on their home ice by rival Wisconsin 4-1 and 8-1. Minnesota dropped to 15-5 on the season, 11-5 in the Big Ten and for the first time all season, fell out of the top spot in the league standings since a 10-0 start.

So did Motzko burn the tape from last weekend, or did he find something they can learn from?

"That’s not one you forget. We have to wear that one and we had to come back. We owe the program an hour, and Monday we had to pay back the program," Motzko said. "A good friend of mine said you can kick the trash can three times a year. You get three bullets. Well, we used one Monday."

It’s Motzko’s hope that his team looks much different this weekend than the one that took the ice against the Badgers. After getting out-scored by a combined 12-2 in two losses, the Gophers fell from No. 2 to No. 5 in the U.S. College Hockey Online rankings, and didn’t get a single first place vote.

Minnesota has no choice but to respond. It heads to Notre Dame this weekend after getting swept by the Fighting Irish, also on their home ice, about a month ago in a pair of one-goal games. In a weird season that’s already complicated by COVID-19, the Gophers have four of their five losses at 3M at Mariucci Arena.

Motzko said the Gophers need to get back to keeping it simple, working hard. They’ve gotten in trouble when they’ve tried to make too many individual plays, and gotten too fancy with the puck.

"For whatever reason we’ve just got to get back to good habits in practice, play the game the right way and that’s what you work on," Motzko said. "That’s the only way to play this sport and for the most part, we’ve been pretty good this year. When we haven’t been pretty good, there’s been an arrow pointing to that part of our game."

The Gophers felt great about themselves early in the season. They started 10-0, and were No. 1 in the country for the first time in years. Last weekend’s pair of losses, and losing the Big Ten lead in the process, came after four-game win streak.

They now have four series left, starting this weekend, to take back the Big Ten crown and get ready for a modified postseason. That’s if COVID-19 allows. Motzko is looking for his team to respond this weekend.

"We’ve had a little issue this year because we have not been behind a lot. I have not liked how we’ve reacted a few times when we’ve gotten down. That’s hockey, you’re going to fall down once in a while and you’ve got to battle through," Motzko said.