Myers: 'The chain fell off the bike,' leaving 'U' desperate in defeat
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Sometimes on the college hockey rink, things go exactly according to the script. Which is fine, as long as your team wrote the script.
In the first home loss of the season, the Gophers hockey team found itself reciting lines written by a tactician from Nebraska-Omaha for 40 minutes and took a bow at the final curtain with a 3-2 loss etched in the playbill.
The Mavericks, renowned for their massive defensemen, took advantage of two periods of uninterested play by the "U" and used those hulks to disrupt the home club's increasingly desperate offense, again and again and again.
"The chain fell off the bike tonight," Gophers coach Don Lucia said. "There was no chain coming up the rink at all. They were the better team. They deserved to win the game."
In a mark of how quickly one team, and one player, can see fortunes change over the course of 60 minutes, Zach Budish tied the game in the first period with fourth goal of the season, then coughed up a puck in the third period to set up the Mavericks' untying tally.
The scouting report on the Mavs was giants on the blue line, but the Gophers were supposed to be able to win via speed. When the Gophers showed up sluggish, and the Mavs showed they could skate a little, there was trouble in Dinkytown.
"A lot of it is our defensemen and how mobile they are," Omaha coach Dean Blais said, as his team notched its seventh win in a row. "Forwards are coming back and the defensemen didn't give them a whole lot."
The Gophers also seemed uninterested in taking much, after an encouraging first period where the home team led 2-1 and had a decided offensive advantage. From that point on it was all Omaha, as the visitors outshot the Gophers 21-11 in the last 40 minutes and scored the game's last two goals.
Josh Archibald, a Mavs winger from Brainerd, took advantage when Budish turned the puck over early in the third, scoring his seventh goal of the season to snap the 2-2 tie. The lead allowed Blais to collapse his massive d-men around goalie John Faulkner, who could barely be seen, let alone shot at.
"They start with 6-foot-8, 6-6, 6-4, 6-4 and 6-2," Blais said with a wide smile, rattling off the heights of his defensive pairings.
The Gophers left with a feeling that despite the Mavs' physical gifts on the blue line, they hadn't done nearly enough to make their guests feel unwelcome.
"They got to play with the puck in front of them all night and they're big, long defensemen with good stick skills who can back the puck out of the air," said Gophers defenseman Nate Schmidt.
"They've got a lot of length and they've got a lot of ability to keep you out of the middle of the ice. That's what they did all night. They kept our guys out of the scoring areas."
While the Gophers fell to 4-3-2 in conference play, Omaha improved to 3-0-0 all-time at Mariucci -- a stat that sounds more ominous in light of Lucia's pregame talk that the schedule was getting more "real" as we flip the calendar to December.
A few more efforts like the one fans saw on Friday, and the most real thing in the world of Gopher hockey will be the trouble they're having defending their conference title.
"We just couldn't make plays. ... We didn't do enough," Lucia said. "Guys just seemed, for whatever reason, like they didn't have their legs tonight."
Which was, clearly, not in accordance with any script written at the "U".